Unique Aspects of Programming
Specialty Therapeutic Services
Multi-Family Therapy Group
A longstanding and unique therapeutic service we provide is Multi-Family Therapy Group, which brings together the youth we serve and their birth family members, adoptive family members and/or foster family members in a process oriented therapy group. The goal is to help youth work on the relationships with their family members. Some youth work toward successful reunification with their birth/adoptive/foster family and others work to figure out what their family relationships will be without reunifying with them. Youth can also work on the meaning of their family in their lives and identities. Participants can take part in a few sessions or stay for years, even after they have left The Home and been discharged from DFPS.
Drug/Alcohol Education Group
The Settlement Home is not a drug/alcohol treatment program. However, we recognize that drugs and alcohol play a significant role in the lives of the youth we serve. Although very few of our youth have a substance dependence or substance abuse diagnosis, a majority have been seriously affected by family members and significant others who are alcoholic/addicts. Most of our youth are at great risk for addiction or becoming involved with chemically dependent people. Recognizing that most youth learn about drugs and alcohol from peers, the media, people important to them including family members, which can glamorize or provide misinformation, this group seeks to provide accurate information about various drugs and alcohol, the effects of use, the definitions of use, abuse and addiction, the dynamics of relationships with family and friends who are addicts, and the process and hope of recovery. The goal is to inform and evoke issues that may be a part of the youth’s therapy.
Healthy Relationships, Self-Identity and Empowerment Group
We provide a curriculum that addresses adolescent development, sexuality, puberty, Sexually Transmitted Infections, pregnancy, birth control options, as well as information about how to recognize unhealthy patterns in relationships. Residents participate in groups to address these topics. They are given information, participate in discussions and are allowed to ask questions regarding these topics. These groups are run by staff members, Master’s level interns and therapists. Healthy identity and empowerment are important to the success of our residents and their development of meaningful relationships in their lives. Research specific to gender development and empowerment of self-identity formation are supported through trainings that orient staff and clinicians to these models. Groups and activities that promote identity and empowerment are set up and supported so that residents can experience these values and develop a strong sense of self.
Restraint Reduction Initiative
A restraint is an intervention that the staff are trained to use as a last resort if a resident is actively causing harm to herself or to someone else. When doing a restraint, the staff physically holds the resident’s arms until she is calm and able to be safe on her own. We have learned that the use of restraint with people at risk of harming themselves or others is a complex and controversial issue that touches many agencies, including juvenile justice, psychiatric hospitals, residential treatment centers, and schools. The Settlement Home is involved in an effort to reduce the use of restraint with our residents. We have seen significant benefits from our efforts in this area. Our annual number of restraints has decreased by more than half, we have observed a decrease in staff injuries, an increase in staff morale, and an overall feeling of safety amongst the residents.
Trust Based Relational Intervention
The Settlement Home, in collaboration with the TCU Child Development Institute, has embraced TBRI®, which is an attachment based, trauma informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. TBRI® uses Connecting Principles for attachment needs, Empowering Principles to address physical needs, and Correcting Principles to disarm fear based behaviors. While the intervention is based on years of attachment, sensory processing, and neuroscience research, the heart of TBRI® is connection. TBRI® is designed for children from “hard places” of abuse, neglect, and/or trauma. Because of their histories, it is often difficult for these children to trust the loving adults in their lives, which often results in perplexing behaviors. TBRI® offers practical tools for parents, caregivers, teachers, and anyone who works with children, to see the “whole child” in their care and help that child reach her highest potential.
The Settlement Home incorporates sensory work to support residents in managing feelings in a healthy and safe manner. These sensory tools empower residents to learn relaxation exercises, coping skills and specific tools that can be used to create a personalized plan for each resident in order to make safe choices, work toward treatment goals and utilize self-care. Some examples of sensory tools include weighted deep pressure and calming equipment, tactile (touch) equipment, oral-motor equipment, scented equipment, vestibular (movement) equipment, and proprioceptive (body awareness) equipment.
Peer Mentor Program
Peer mentors are exemplary residents who are nominated by their treatment team to meet with other residents and provide support to them when they need it. This program gives our residents the opportunity to develop empathy and communication skills. These skills subsequently help them to strengthen their sense of purpose and self-esteem. Our peer mentors are leaders on campus and serve as an example to others.
Recreation and Summer Program
We recognize the importance of recreation in our children’s lives and believe that it is an integral part of their mental health. The goal is for our residents to develop positive recreation skills to aid them in their recovery and to have a creative outlet to sublimate potential destructive behavior and feelings. Our campus gym, playground equipment, bikes, activity room, and track and field areas provide spaces and opportunities for the children to enjoy recreational fun. The Home partners with community volunteers and organizations to provide regular events on our campus, such as yoga and exercise groups, arts and craft groups, a book club, girl scouts activities, music lessons, gardening, and game nights. Volunteers and staff teach a variety of classes such as cooking, art, cultural awareness, life skills, swimming, dance, photography, and music. In addition, because of the generosity of the Austin community, our children also regularly participate in community events such as concerts, theater, sports, and camps. Summer time includes a daily schedule of educational, vocational and recreational activities provided on our campus and in the community. Many of our children receive scholarships to participate in a variety of camps in the community, including theatre, music, outdoors and adventure, sports, and girl empowerment. Our residents also participate in vocational training programs in the city.
Distinctive Educational and Vocational Programs
The Settlement Home contracts with a professional tutoring service to provide tutoring for residents. The tutoring program hires and trains a tutor with a background in education to provide 12-15 residents with one to two tutoring sessions per week during the school year. Students are selected by The Settlement Home Education Director, UTUCS teachers and staff, and Settlement Home Therapist/Supervisors. The tutor is provided with background information on each student’s educational functioning, including psychological reports, ARD reports, report cards, and STAAR scores. Goals for tutoring may include skill-building, homework support and STAAR preparation. The tutor produces a weekly report showing each student’s progress.
Vocational Training Program
There are several opportunities for residents for vocational training on campus, including training in the office, cafeteria and occasionally, in maintenance. The goal is to give our residents an experience similar to real employment where emphasis is placed on social skills, work ethic and skill building.
Hope for Tomorrow Scholarship Fund
We offer a scholarship program for former residents who are pursuing a college or vocational degree. The committee meets once a semester with these students, at which time, their financial needs are determined. Students can have their books paid for and receive a gift card for groceries on a monthly basis. The hope is that these young ladies can worry less about how to make their ends meet and focus on school.
Transitioning out of foster care can be one of the toughest things our residents face. The Settlement Home offers case management for these residents so that they can continue to learn about their medical rights and educational benefits, such as registering for college, applying for Federal grants and applying for the Educational Training Voucher (ETV). Residents will also continue to have access to individual therapy with a licensed clinician. Our mission at The Settlement Home is to produce healthy, productive young adults who are ready to transition to adulthood.
Healthy Living and Wellness Opportunities
Nutrition & Fitness
Nutrition education and healthy meal planning are essential to ensuring our residents eat healthier and start to develop lifelong habits towards improving their overall wellbeing. We have a Nutrition & Fitness Coordinator that works individually with residents to provide personal training sessions, group fitness activities, as well as nutrition consultation. We have a gym on our campus that has a rock climbing wall, as well as cardio and strength machines that provides an inviting environment for our staff and residents to enjoy. We also have an online yoga membership for our staff and residents to access for group or individual use. We partner with University of Texas nutrition program interns each year to provide consultations to our residents, staff and foster parents to assist with the goal of healthy eating.
The Run Club was established in 2008, and we train on our campus track for 5K races in the community. Run Club meets each week, providing the girls ongoing motivation to move them forward, both literally and figuratively. Our purpose is to give our girls the opportunity to set and achieve goals as well as naturally increase endorphins in the brain, a complement to medication as well as behavioral interventions already in place. Our long-term objective is to make health and fitness a priority for children. We want to instill in our residents that taking a few laps around the block is a healthy and effective coping skill. The end result is an opportunity to participate in a positive community event and celebrate success individually and as a group.
Additional Benefits Provided
The Book Nook is our on campus library, and our residents are able to “check out” books each week. The Settlement Club women provide new and gently used books geared for adolescents.