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Schools, Programs, & Visit Reports - Aug, 1990 Issue 

Dana Point, California
Lon Woodbury's Visit: June 29, 1990

Capistrano is a hospital. I usually don't review hospital programs, but with Larry Steidnitz's leadership, the system he is developing is very pertinent to Special Purpose Schools. Larry has developed a referral service for children with behavior and emotional problems which he is coordinating with the hospital services. The result is a full service facility that is extremely responsive to the needs of the child. The odds of finding the best program for each child is improved.

Most programs have only one service to offer. The usual decision is whether the child is appropriate or not. Unless an experienced educational consultant is involved, the question of which program is best for the child is left to parents who will often accept almost anything to solve the immediate crisis. Finding the most appropriate place is usually based on luck, and some children never get what they really need.

When a parent calls Larry about a child with problems, the first decision is if hospitalization is needed. If the behavior and/or evaluations suggest no, then Larry works as an educational consultant to help the parents find the Special Purpose school or program with the structure best for the child. If the behavior indicates hospitalization might be the solution, then the child is admitted to Capistrano for about two weeks of tests and evaluation. Once the evaluation is done, there are three options depending on the child's needs: l.) referral to an appropriate Special Purpose school; 2.) referral to a hospital specializing in that child's problem; or 3.) remaining at Capistrano if the hospital specializes in that child's problem.

With this flexibility and sensitivity to the needs of the child, and their being open to using a wide variety of programs, I think Capistrano-By-the-Sea is on the cutting edge of providing the best possible care for children with emotional or mental problems. They have developed a model that should be duplicated in every section of the country.

Capistrano-By-the-Sea is a 98 bed quality care hospital. I use the term "quality care" based on the physical appearance of the facility and on having the opportunity of talking with some of the residents. The young people I talked to were relaxed and open, obviously feeling like they were in a safe environment. The grounds were neat and the buildings tended to have the look of homes rather than of an institution. The view of the Pacific Ocean was fantastic. The hospital has a staff to patient ratio of three to one which allows a considerable amount of one-to-one interaction. The sense I had was of a place with caring and competent staff working with patients feeling safe enough to trust.

Copyright 1990, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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