Ferris School Named Finalist for the 2017 Barbara Allen-Hagen Award

Posted by Patricia Rafferty
August 07, 2017

Performance-based Standards (PbS) is pleased to announce Ferris School in Wilmington, DE as one of the finalists for the 2017 Barbara Allen-Hagen Award in the correction category. The facility was selected as a finalist for reducing youth assaults and fights by increasing positive interactions and reinforcements by staff.

The PbS team at Ferris School began a Facility Improvement Plan (FIP) following their first data collection, which showed a high number of assaults and fights, which resulted in a high level of restraint use and staff injuries during restraints. The team also believed high rates of assaults, fights and restraints were key factors leading to the reported fear for safety among staff and youths.

The team developed a holistic improvement strategy that focused on increasing positive interactions, reinforcement and staff-youth relationships. For the youths, the team created competitions between housing pods and the pod with the fewest restraints would get to choose from a variety of rewards including movie and popcorn nights, ice cream parties or relaxed uniform rules for the weekend. Educational and vocational programs were expanded for the youths to offer more opportunities, including the revival of the construction program. For the staff, the PbS team held focus groups and increased training on resident supervision, security practices, cognitive behavior therapy and gangs. The team also addressed the correctional facility structure by adding chalkboards in the pods, blue lighting in some rooms that create a calmer atmosphere and made more use of the outdoor space including a new gazebo and healing garden for meditation and groups.

Further analyzing the data, the PbS team noticed the assaults and fights were high in the spring when the facility did not offer a team sport. In the fall, the Ferris School youth football team had been undefeated and the momentum inspired the staff to seek another competitive sport for the spring. The recreation department started a lacrosse program and reached out to coaches from nearby colleges and high schools. Youths and staff learned how to play lacrosse and enjoyed a win-less but fun season. Ferris School received the First Stick grant from USLacrosse, was featured in USLacrosse Magazine and was selected as the host site for the May 2017 USLacrosse clinic. Other recreation activities added were competitions between youths and staff, such as basketball and football games that successfully built more positive staff-youth relationships.

The PbS team at Ferris School is comprised of representatives from each living unit and all departments. The team, led by Tanya Banks is dedicated to sustaining these efforts by championing each program and integrating PbS into the daily routine at the facility. Data and survey results are shared with all staff and used to foster positive relationships with youths and their families. With the additional training, support and recognition of staff, the whole facility is committed to positive changes. Through the additional team sports and expansion of programming, the youths are bought in and take more pride in their daily interactions. They want to do well for themselves, the team and the facility.

The PbS Barbara Allen-Hagen Award was established in 2007 to honor Barbara Allen-Hagen and her retirement from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Her dedication to improving the quality of life in facilities for young offenders has helped drive PbS to its current success. The award is given to a correction, detention/assessment and community program who best exemplify PbS’ commitment to treating all youths in custody as one of our own by developing and implementing strategic plans to change practices that results in positive outcomes for youths, staff and families.

Winners of the award will be announced the night of the ceremony on Oct. 26, 2017. Stay tuned for more blogs about the finalists.

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Data shared with staff for open communication

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Ferris School lacrosse team

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Facility Superintendent, Tanya Banks (right), leading a staff discussion