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Posted: Mar 30, 2008 22:15


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Keeping It All Together

By Jim Powell, PhD, and Bill Valentine, PsyD, CC

In the last three essays, we have given a number of recommendations and suggestions for ways to use the current scrutiny of our industry to your school or program's advantage. Increased focus on safety, staff development and minimizing risk are important steps for all programs to take. In this essay, we want to discuss what we feel is the most important suggestion we have offered: "Operate in an inclusive environment that allows for objective assessment".

While these essays were conceived, in large part, as a response to the Miller hearings in Congress, it is our opinion that the main reason for implementing any of the suggestions we have offered in this or prior essays is to improve the quality of your school/program. The highest of professional, quality care provided to staff, program participants, their families, referral sources and allied professionals is the best liability protection any school or program can have. Tracking and trending information, thorough assessments, comprehensive training and our other recommendations will all assist you in achieving that high quality.

For some, implementing these ideas may feel laborious and distracting to "the real work" of direct care. In fact, regular, inclusive, objective assessments will save you time, energy, money and resources as they become fixtures within your organization. Having full, objective knowledge of your program allows you to be tolerant, diverse, engaged, pro-active and progressive in day to day operations. Within the context of structure and order there is the ability to be flexible, creative and passionate about the work you do with students and their families.

We have a belief that if you track almost anything within your school or program for 30 days you will learn something new about your program. Deciding what to track should be based on the indicators you and your team decide are most telling. But, we caution you not to overlook the more subtle, less obvious trends that might be even more telling upon closer examination and analysis. A complete 360 degree view of your program may provide new insights or revelations and causes for reflection.

In addition, the process of inclusive and objective assessment will allow you to stay current, be proactive and make informed decisions regarding the growth and development of your school or program. Some suggestions for creating such an inclusive and objective environment include:

  1. Daily "check-in" meetings with child care administrators and other key members of your team

  2. An admissions screening criteria that is multi-leveled and includes interdisciplinary representation and sign-off

  3. Realistic job descriptions that articulate company philosophy, expectations and performance standards for all positions

  4. Regular performance evaluation processes that are comprehensive, articulate and specific for all positions

  5. A process for surveying, sharing and evaluating industry/peer best practices

  6. A peer review process that includes outside reviewers

  7. Maintaining and nurturing of a student government

  8. A diverse staff with appropriate experience, credentials and licensure for operational activities and programmatic demands

  9. A timely incident/accident debriefing process that reviews all incidents/accidents, translates the findings to staff at all levels and informs them of policy or procedural changes

  10. Staff training programs that are consistent, comprehensive, documented and part of career paths

  11. Interdisciplinary treatment planning

  12. Regular Safety Committee meetings with interdisciplinary, rotating representation

  13. Nurturance of a staff-to-staff communication plan and/or mediation avenue

  14. Feedback loops up and down the organization

  15. Regular analysis of enrollment and departure trends

  16. Processes that investigate and address student, parent or staff complaints

  17. Awareness and proactive analysis of any other key indicators as determined by program staff and administrators

  18. An environment that encourages diversity of opinion without fear of retribution

All of the above recommendations, if implemented diligently, will provide you with valuable information about the quality and efficacy of your school or program's methodologies, customer service, student-staff relationships and perception within the industry among your peers and referring professionals. Making more informed, less reactive and anecdotal decisions regarding your program's current status and potential for development and growth will assure that you reach your goals and achieve your mission in a safe, effective and successful manner.

About the authors:
Dr. Jim Powell is Co-Founder of Powell & Elliott Collaborative, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in the struggling adolescent community, Lake Arrowhead, CA 951-317-3151

Dr. Bill Valentine is Co-Founder of Next Step For Success, a parent and family coaching service, a division of Ever Higher, LLC, Redmond, OR 541-504-5224


March 31, 2008

Bill and Jim have outlined valuable information and activities. Programs following the basic principles will enhance their programs.

Larry Stednitz

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