Children’s Home teaches more than ‘dress for success’

Lionel Curry -- youth being recognized for academic achievement


It took three years and the participation of everyone on staff, and the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home is now accredited by the Teaching-Family Association.

What that means is that all staff throughout the campus will be using special, positive reinforcement techniques to teach and reward children for behaviors that will help them successfully navigate the community and workplace when they are on their own in the future.
 
A youth participating at a donor appreciation event served as a greeter and is shown doing some magic with cards to entertain.
“Our end goal was to be fully accredited,” Campus Life Director Dennis Harper said.

The Teaching-Family Model (TFM) is largely a mentoring model, and therapeutic relationships with caregivers are the priority of effective treatment in supportive, family-style settings. 

Family-style relationships are seen as essential to healthy development of social, relational and interpersonal skills. The TFM is a strength-based, comprehensive and trauma-informed model of care that builds positive change while remaining focused on the holistic development of the person served. 

The model is rooted in cognitive behavioral theory and can be used with children, youth and adults with a range of diagnoses and symptoms, as well as with those who have experienced significant trauma, maltreatment and loss. 

At any given time, an average of about 50 children, ages 6-17, live at the Children’s Home.

“Our goal,” Harper said, “is for (children) to master some skills, then move on to others, like ignoring inappropriate behavior or impulse emotional control.”

If a staff member sees a child doing really well, they praise them.

“Basically, you are catching them being good,” Harper said.
 
On the Day of Service, a youth helped out with raking at a local church.
The program is based on a motivation system in which the children earn rewards for appropriate behavior, and they have the opportunity to practice until they get it right.

Examples of the skills they are learning include following instructions, accepting feedback, accepting no for an answer, asking permission and greeting skills.

“Those are life skills you have to have the rest of your life, anyway,” Harper said. “The majority of the kids don’t have those skills when they get here or were taught the improper way to do it.”

The goal to equip children who age out of the Children’s Home and go out on their own with the skills set to develop appropriate relationships with their families, their neighbors and in the workplace.

The lessons paid off for a girl in the program who had a job interview at Wendy’s.

The last question the manager asked was if he found her using a paper cup to scoop ice instead of the ice scoop, what would she do. The girl said she would look at the manager, listen to him, acknowledge what he said, then use the appropriate behavior.

“She did that, and she got hired that day,” Harper said, underscoring that learning appropriate behaviors helped her land the job.

—Yvette C. Hammett is a freelance writer based in Valrico.


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