Families are very much involved in their children’s growth and change at CSF Buxmont’s Restorative Reporting Centers (RRC), an IIRP model program for adjudicated youth, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Youth attend the RRC program five evenings a week to focus on social skills, self control, family connectedness, moral reasoning and responsibility, as a part of their development. In this innovative 20-week community-based alternative to out-of-home placement, the youths’ family members are involved from the start.
“For me it’s all about engaging these families,” declares RRC Program Coordinator Jerry Bradley. Families meet each week using a circle format that fosters connection and discussion. “Parents feel they are part of their child’s success — that it’s not just ‘some program’. They’re involved every week in their child’s progress, and that means a lot to them.”
Attendance is consistently high at RRC weekly family nights, with parents, siblings and grandparents taking part. Everyone benefits from this involvement: young people and family members alike.
“My husband and I attended as many family nights as we could,” says Kathleen Taylor, whose son participated in the RRC. “The program uses education as the basis for behavior change.” Even though youth are court-ordered to attend, Taylor says, “It didn’t come across as punitive. It improved our communication as a family so that we could be in a better position moving forward.”
Adds Taylor, “It was just phenomenal how the staff communicated with us on a regular and consistent basis. It felt very much like a partnership, like ‘we’re all enrolled in this program together,’ and it made the entire family accountable for my son’s success.”
IIRP Associate Professor Dr. Frida Rundell facilitated Family Nights at one of the program’s two locations. She explains that families work as a system: “We’re not just individuals on our own. You can do as much therapy as you want with a child, but when you put that child back in original system the whole cycle happens again.”
Rundell says, “We teach restorative perspectives in a practical way so that parents can continue the work we’re doing in the RRC once their child gets released after 20 weeks.”
Each week Rundell conducted a different activity for parents and children to work together. One week, youth were blindfolded and their parents guided them — without doing it for them — to put together a four-piece puzzle.
Rundell explains, “People have a physical experience with their child and an interaction, and they can then talk about it in a forum that doesn’t judge them. It allows their brain to find new information and integrate it. When they see other parents having the same struggles, and see different options, it really validates that they could learn to work together in different ways.”
Bradley says that a big part of the RRC program involves students doing circles throughout the week to support one another to make changes. The family nights provide a support network for parents, too. “Parents look to each other for support and feedback.”
Taylor’s son is now successfully attending college. Taylor concludes, “I really do believe in the program and the impact this had on our family. My son managed to work through an incredibly hard situation. He’s light years ahead of where he was two years ago.”