2015 Barbara Allen-Hagen Award Video Spotlight: South Hadley Girls Treatment Program

Posted by Patricia Rafferty
September 09, 2015

Performance-based Standards (PbS) congratulates South Hadley Girls Treatment Program in South Hadley, MA, as the 2015 Barbara Allen-Hagen award winner in the community-based category. South Hadley Girls Treatment Program was selected as a winner of this award—given to the facility who best develops and implements a plan to improve outcomes—for transitioning from a point and level system to a behavioral support system based in positive youth development.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of PbS, this year the winners received a video about their programs and improvements.

The beginning of the video shows the South Hadley facility as another house on the street, then gives an inside look to show the treatment-based, community environment it contains. The home-like atmosphere allows the girls to feel more like themselves as they prepare to transition back to their own homes. One of the residents, Naomy, said: “I’m not home right now. I don’t have my mom, I don’t have my family. And knowing that I have that little space in the program where I can feel like myself, I can be myself. This is home for now, and it’s gonna be okay.”

The staff at South Hadley build positive adult relationships with the youths while maintaining boundaries and teaching responsibility. Program Director and PbS Site Coordinator Melissa King said: “The staff are very dedicated to try to make sure that the young ladies feel that they’re connected to something.” South Hadley transitions most of the girls back to their own homes, and aims to teach them how to trust and build relationships. The positive reinforcement and relationships built at South Hadley have an effect on the girls, as shown by the amount who stay in contact after leaving the facility.

South Hadley used to have a points system, where points could be taken away at any time and not always with a clear reason. The transition to a tier system was a necessary change to reach the goal of positive youth development. Peter Forbes, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services, said: “The key for me really has been to get staff out of the heavy accountability correctional mode and into more of a coaching mode.” The new system at South Hadley consists of “Think + Learn + Contribute” to focus on positive development as opposed to negative actions. It allows the staff to be able to give help and support instead of further punishment, and it translates better in the community.

Congratulations to South Hadley Girls Treatment Program and thank you for your continual commitment to positive development and treating all youths in custody as one of your own!