Youth living in residential care facilities often face many behavioral challenges. With this in mind, the treatment team at Nexus Glen Lake has implemented an effective system of restoring relationships to promote a safe and healthy treatment environment.
Rather than focusing on structured consequences for problematic behaviors, Nexus Glen Lake helps youth regain control through time for reflection. When a youth displays a problematic behavior, such as aggression, they are placed on pause. During a pause, youth focus on regaining emotional control and focusing on restoration.
When youth are emotionally stable and receptive to instruction, a restoration plan is initiated. The youth is first asked to describe the event in their own words. Others who witnessed the event are also asked to share their perspective. Because fear of shame and embarrassment can cause people to resist taking responsibility for problematic behaviors, memories can become distorted. An additional perspective is useful to help a youth recognize distortions in her recollection of events or behavior.
When an accurate narrative of the event is agreed upon, the youth is helped to identify the various individuals who may have been affected by her behavior, as well as how they were personally affected by the behavior. Then the youth is asked to brainstorm ways to reconcile with those individuals. Some examples may include offering encouragement to a peer, leading an activity, fixing or cleaning up anything damaged during the incident, making dinner, doing extra chores, writing a letter, etc.
Staff continue to work with the youth to complete these tasks, all the while emphasizing the goal of restoration rather than punishment. Once the youth has completed the restoration plan and all tasks involved, they are removed from pause and can resume engaging in all aspects of the treatment environment.
The entire process is cooperative, supports community-building, and ensures a culture of mutual respect. The restorative approach gives problematic behavior a context, and the practice has changed the culture at Nexus Glen Lake over the past several months, yielding positive outcomes.