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Posted: Jan 7, 2004, 15:48

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Sutton, Vermont
William J. Knopf & Randall G. Slikkers,
Executive Directors

“Family Circles is comprised of a small group of individuals who are highly experienced in family systems work and home-based interventions. The program is designed to provide in-home intervention to families in crisis.” Family Circles can be used to “support and guide families with young people returning home following a therapeutic boarding school, wilderness program, or residential treatment experience” or can be used in some cases during a crisis to help bridge the communication between family members and an adolescent to avoid sending the adolescent to a program.

The focus of Family Circles is Mentoring. “The concept of ‘mentoring’ has been gaining ground in the human services field…The passing of knowledge and relating experiences from one generation to the next is the cornerstone of progress and growth in all cultures. Mentoring is widely believed to be one of the most effective intervention methods.”

“The mentors at Family Circles bring decades of experience to bear in resolving conflict, anxiety and strengthening communication in the family circle.” Their “programming is uniquely tailored to meet the needs of the “aftercare” student who requires support past their placement or the child that would benefit from in-home early intervention.”

Family Circles is not family therapy. Rather, their “primary mission is to help the family process the day-to-day triumphs and tribulations they experience.” This differs from “a clinical process delivered by a generally neutral clinician.” A Family Circles mentor actively gives a family advice to “help them come up with a family system that works.” Although the mentor plays a different role than does the family therapist, it is anticipated that the Family Circles mentor will interact with the family therapist, as well as “other components of the family support system. The Family Mentor Specialists assigned to the family are not there to provide additional “therapy.” They mentor each member of the family as individuals, and also mentor the family as a whole.” In this role, the Family Mentor Specialist often will be more “gently confrontational than a therapist.”

The actual interaction with the Family Circles mentors involves “support and guidance, not supervision,” as they work through a 10-step process in which they “learn to guide and support each other moving towards healthy interdependence.” The steps that occur in various parts of the Family Circle’s “Mentoring for Success” Process include: Family Evaluation; a Family Impact Weekend; Communication; Impact Weekend: Step away; Mentoring; an Impact Weekend at Home; Stepping Back; an Impact Weekend on the Road; Flying Solo; and Graduation.” These various steps may involve the mentor talking to the family every day, as well as “family outings and high impact weekends.” The fees are flexible, based on the family’s level of need.

The directors, Bill Knopf, formerly with the King George School, and Randall Slikkers, have “over 35 years of combined experience providing quality aftercare and preventative programming the residential treatment field.” As their business grows, they will be adding more mentors who have had experience: “with family services, programming, teaching and social services.”


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