Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How is this going to work?: Some thoughts at a Strategic Planning Meeting

Live-blogging:  I was invited to the Strategic Planning meeting for Central Massachusetts Communities of Care, a SAMSHA funded initiative in our part of the state that preceded the CBHI, and in many ways, is the basis for the wraparound services that we are about  to roll out around the state.  The meeting is in part an annual planning meeting for an ongoing project and in part the kick-off for the System of Care Steering Committee, which will be a key part of the new Community Service Agency.  I was late;  as I entered, I heard descriptions of two "evidence-based" programs PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) and TF-CBT (Trauma Focused Cognitive Based Therapy).  The PBIS made a certain amount of sense;  allying with the schools always make sense.   The TF-CBT folks claimed that 25% of children  and adolescents have experienced "trauma" (both as victims and as witnesses), and that kids "in the system" have a much higher rate of trauma.  They showed progress in participants who are enrolled in the program.  We also heard some of the participants of the Communities of Care, dealing with some pretty harsh times as well.  Stuff that is hard to measure, but really shows the intrinsic value of wraparound.  We saw some data from the CoC that shows positive benefit of the program (no control or comparison group).  We heard the family voice and the need for the family voice at the table, and the need to break down the language that we professionals use in this work so that families can understand it.  We heard a lot of things;  basically we heard that the model is a bit of work, but is worth it.  
Slipped in to all of these talks, there was a small revelation for me; the Youth and Family Center in Webster (where I practice) is not going to the continue, which is a bit disappointing.  Disappointed, I went off to dinner, and to join a small group.
The small groups focused on three questions:  What are the benefits of the Youth and Family Center?  What would you do if you only had half of the support?  What could you bring to the cause?  Many of us in the group were from Webster; we were all feeling a sense of loss over the loss of the Center.  We recognized the strength of the youth groups and presence within our community;  we offered to support the youth going forward with space and expertise;  we really thought that it was important to preserve the connection that people felt in the Center. 
Connection seems to be the core of the wraparound process-  connection is the part that is really hard to replicate.  We tried to be upbeat, but it was hard.  We returned to the bigger group.
In the larger group, others seemed to be more optimistic than were we;  they spoke of successful diversion, a comfortable feeling, the strength of collaboration with those that have "walked the walk", PPAL and the strength of parent collaboration.  The relationship with the Dudley Court and the availability of respite, the feeling of safety and the support of peers, parents and workers.   The development of parents and youth as leaders works.  All of these things work, and it is sad to see how our economic fallout will hurt so many families.  There is an old saying: "When elephants dance, it is the grass that gets crushed, when the elephants fight it is also the grass that gets crushed".    So what do I take from this?
1)  Families need to be at the center of the process.
2)  Process is everything.  Take no short-cuts.
3)  It is hard to cut any part of the program-  it is an organic whole.
Nice meeting;  a model for what we need to do in the CBHI.  Gives me hope for the process, and trepidation over the outcome.

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