My visit to Stevens began with a presentation by three students. The first, a young man who had been at Stevens for over four years discussed the programs and his experience as a student of Stevens. I was told prior to seeing the students that they had been practicing hard for a few days. The first student gave an overview of Stevens and discussed the Stevens emphasis; Education, behavior and therapy. He stressed how important safety was at the school. During the tour, he pointed out cameras located in most buildings underscoring the importance of safety. Other safety features included 24-hour supervision along with bed checks twice every 15 minutes. Safety also plays a major role in how the physical plants are constructed. For example, there is only one student per room and the bed rooms do not have doors, again stressing the importance of safety.
The second student gave an overview of the history of Stevens. Frank Stevens was the founder of Stevens School. He and a gentleman by the name of James Birch became partners during the gold rush of California. Both men had a strong entrepreneurial spirit and while they did not seek gold in California, they developed the first stage coaches that transported gold out of the west and eventually transported people. Both men became very wealthy after selling their company to Wells Fargo and in 1939, Stevens opened as an orphanage which lasted for several years before the need for orphanages diminished. In 1979, Stevens merged with another organization and the modern day program was founded. The boy told the story in a very interesting way, bringing life to what it must have been years ago. The third boy handled the bulk of the tour and did a great job.
Stevens Treatment Program specializes in the treatment of fire setters and sex abusers and youth with emotional and behavioral disorders. These students are ages 12 through 17. Intellectually, the program enrolls students who have IQ's as low as 75 and above. The boys come with a variety of diagnosis, including conduct disorders, ADD, PTSD, Bi-Polar, as well as other diagnosis. They enroll only 32 boys and the program is evenly split between sex abusers, fire setters and students with behavior and emotional disorders. The program specializes in working with hard to place, difficult populations. Of paramount importance, is to provide a highly structured and safe environment. In a caring manner, the staff members manage the behaviors of the students until they are able to respond appropriately and consistently. The typical length of stay is 12 to 18 months.
Over the past two years, the Board of Directors for Stevens has raised sufficient money to complete an extensive remodel of most of the buildings. All three cottages are being refurbished to assure that each boy has his own bedroom. The school is taking a bold, but promising step into the future, making efforts to broaden their payer base. The school demonstrates integrity in their pursuit to achieve a high degree of safety. Sex abusers and fire setting disorder treatment ideally includes single occupied bedrooms and the transformations will be complete within six months. The cottages are an important component of the behavioral program and students are able to earn the privilege of moving to a less structured cottage. After making significant progress in their treatment they ultimately move to the transitional living program, (TLT), located in a nearby community. Stevens could easily expand their bed space on their 26 acres, but they choose to keep the census down in order to maintain their strong staffing and clinical programming.
The school has developed and refined a comprehensive treatment approach for both fire setters and sex abusers. Each has their individualized educational components, relapse prevention, processing groups, and is supported by the behavioral system. Each boy also has a therapist who sees them weekly and more often as needed. Licensed clinicians oversee the entire program and are responsible for the communication with parents. The therapists employ cognitive behavioral approaches in their work with the students.
Perhaps one of the most important statements made by the administrative team of Stevens was that "We never give up on a kid". This was seconded by other administrators. It has often been this writer's opinion that once a program hits forty students, the character of that program changes significantly. This is another example of the school maintaining consistency in their programming even though it requires more fund-raising and the smaller the program, the more expense per day for the students.
Daily living skills are important with this population. Each dorm is equipped with a kitchen and the boys learn cooking skills, laundry care, cleanliness of their dorm and a variety of other life skills. Academics are equally important and the school has only six to eight students in each classroom. During the tour, it was obvious that the students were well behaved and classes focused on the subject matter. The school also provides recreational trips, basketball, tennis and baseball. The school has a well designed and functional gymnasium. An added bonus for the students is that they also have a pond on grounds and the boys are able to fish.
Stevens Treatment Program is licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care and approved by the Massachusetts Department of Education.