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Wraparound Oregon Focuses on Building Family Strengths

Faith V.Love, Wraparound Facilitator and Supervisor, Oregon Youth Authority

<< Listen: How does your involvement in WrapAround impact communities of color?

More than four years ago, Multnomah County Chief Family Law Judge Nan Waller, key child-serving system leaders, families, providers and advocates, started Wraparound Oregon. They wanted to improve the lives of children and youth who had complex behavioral health needs and who were involved in multiple child serving systems. This “movement” led to a statewide initiative launched in March 2007 when Governor Ted Kulongoski signed an Executive Order.

The statewide Children’s Wraparound Initiative is building a coordinated system of services and supports for children and youth with complex behavioral health needs who are involved in multiple systems such as child welfare, juvenile justice, mental health and special education. One of the guiding principles of system of care change is the service system should be child-centered and family-focused. The needs of the child and family dictate the types and mix of services provided.  Wraparound Oregon has family representation on all committees and decision-making bodies. 

Faith V. Love, a parole/probation supervisor for the Oregon Youth Authority, serves as a family team facilitator and Juvenile Justice Specialist for Wraparound Oregon. In a Q&A with Colors of Influence, Faith explains how the Wraparound process inherently brings cultural competence and can enhance juvenile justice case management by facilitating collaboration and developing natural supports.

In a nutshell, what is Wraparound all about? The idea of using Wraparound as a facilitation process goes back to the early ‘80s. The main idea is that family members get a voice about what happens to them. The primary goals are to address the strengths and needs of the family, provide one facilitator (care coordinator), one plan of care, blended resources and choice of community-based services.. Oregon is currently working on system change.

The Governor’s Office recently submitted a legislative concept outlining a plan of action to implement wraparound and system of care across a population of children and youth. It is important for Wraparound to move toward natural supports: family members, neighbors, friends, and the faith community. The Wraparound process facilitates the collaboration of many different agencies. Many of the families involved are connected to multiple agencies such as mental health, juvenile justice, the health department, etc. All systems join together to clearly define their roles and support the child and family as they determine their future through collaborative case planning. It is important for team members to “hear” the youth and family voice

Why does the model work? The model works because when you have families that are truly invested in decision-making they will naturally become more committed to their own success. I think all of us, as social workers, have a tendency to prescribe or dictate a course of action or services for a family. What Wraparound does is probe deeper into the family’s story. We get the story, and find out how they got to where they’re at.

We find that we take a respectful approach to finding out the family’s story, and really listening to the family’s assessment of their own needs, thus folks are much more able to collaborate in getting things done. I have seen some incredible things happen; it’s really marvelous.

The families we work with are what I call “system-exhausted.” The parents of youth who are used to being dismissed. Giving the family a voice allows them to have a wonderful opportunity to talk about what the issues are from their standpoint.

Wraparound is a voluntary process. Agencies can make referrals, but families decide if they want to participate.. The number one principle of wraparound is family voice and family choice. Families need to be willing participants. Ninety percent of the time families referred to us are good candidates.

What are some of the challenges that you foresee in implementing Wraparound? We don’t invite youth to become involved in juvenile justice. They come to juvenile justice from police contact. The workers within juvenile justice have a strict mindset about what they need to address. Many times, addressing criminality is something that’s done on the surface, and not as much effort is given to the roots of why things at happened.

One of my challenges as juvenile justice specialist is to go out into the juvenile justice world as a Wraparound ambassador and encourage folks to understand that this process would also make juvenile justice case management more successful. I have several cases where kids are involved in the juvenile justice system, and we have probation and parole officers who are actively participating in the family teams. Wraparound is not in any way challenging or undermining the issues of accountability and public safety.

I see a tremendous financial advantage to implementing Wraparound. Everybody who is trying to help the family is involved. There’s no room for duplication of services when everybody knows what each other is doing. You don’t waste services by placing families in programs they don’t need. It gives agencies a chance to be more responsible with how public funds are used.

How does your work impact communities of color? One thing about this work is that the highs are very, very high, like watching kids become successful, and seeing how well they’ve done. And the low is, a kid is dead. You can’t get lower than that. The lower extreme happens too often to minority youth.

Social issues have the impact on communities of color. I’ve seen so many minority youth who have come into the correctional part of the juvenile justice system who are there because mental health needs and family issues have not been taken care of. It’s not that these kids weren’t touched by systems; their needs were simply not met. In fact, there’s even more representation of minority youth the child welfare system than there is in juvenile justice.

Because family voice is central to Wraparound, you cannot ignore a family’s culture, and many systems do that. A lot of families who are system-exhausted are ethnic minority families who have been rubber-stamped, without respect for their culture. Wraparound does not do that. The model itself is inherently culturally competent.

Because communities of color have had negative experiences with law enforcement, and child welfare, some are very wary of contacts with these systems. The challenge is to break through that barrier. Bringing everybody to the meeting facilitates access to services from systems seen as harmful. One question that always comes up in system-change communities is how can we get more minorities to access mental health services? Wraparound has the right idea, because it gets treatment models to be more respectful of minority communities.

A crucial point is getting treatment providers to understand that minority communities are not treatment-resistant; rather, that minority communities have become independent and self-sufficient out of necessity. We have our ways of taking care of ourselves and each other. We may have natural remedies, ceremonies, or things we do in worship. There’s a reason why these methods have lasted as long as they did in minority communities. These traditional methods have to be recognized and incorporated into any approaches that will affect the family.

What was your career path leading up to your current post? I was a peer counselor in high school, and I served as a mentor and tutor at the Southeast Neighborhood Community Center. My intention was to study law, and somehow kept getting steered to working with youth. I started working as an alternative school counselor at Albina Youth Opportunity School (AYOS) where I was mentored by a very wise man named Rance Spruill. I went into that job with a lot of misconceptions about at-risk and high-risk youth: that they would be poorly educated, low-functioning, and/or extremely difficult. What I discovered was that the public school system does a good job working with the mainstream group of kids. Those kids who are extremely bright or have special needs struggle in that public school setting.

That’s the mixture of kids we had at AYOS. We had incredibly bright kids who would finish their school work, and would be looking around for something else to do. Within the confines of the public school setting, there wasn’t much flexibility. At an alternative school, those kids were given the task to tutor special needs kids, or serve as a mentor to others. Teenagers respond well to somebody their own age.

The lessons I learned at AYOS solidified my desire to work ing with youth. I started out with Oregon Youth Authority’s Office of Minority Services in 2000. One of the things that impressed me about OMS was that there are people in State service who recognize the problem of minority over-representation in the juvenile justice system. The office gave validation to culturally appropriate and culturally specific services.

Colors of Influence Winter 2009



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QUOTABLES

"I think all of us, as social workers, have a tendency to prescribe or dictate a course of action or services for a family. What Wraparound does is probe deeper into the family’s story."

"The families we work with are what I call “system-exhausted.” The parents of youth who are used to being dismissed. Giving the family a voice allows them to have a wonderful opportunity to talk about what the issues are from their standpoint."

"Because communities of color have had negative experiences with law enforcement, and child welfare, some are very wary of contacts with these systems. The challenge is to break through that barrier."

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