The Methodist Home for Children’s Value-Based Therapeutic Environment (VBTE) Model is a nonpunitive treatment model that concentrates on teaching juvenile justice–involved youth about prosocial behaviors as alternatives to antisocial behaviors. The VBTE Model is used in juvenile group homes operated by the Methodist Home for Children (MHC) in North Carolina. The MHC homes provide residential services for youths involved in the juvenile justice system who are referred for treatment through the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (DJJDP).
To ensure a consistent approach in the treatment of youth, the VBTE Model provides a common set of values, skills, therapeutic activities, and intervention tools. In addition, an integrated approach is taken to individualized treatment plans for youth that incorporates parents, teachers, and court counselors.
The target population is 10- to 18-year-old youths who are involved in the juvenile justice system. Youths must have been adjudicated delinquent and referred by the North Carolina DJJDP to receive residential treatment in one of the MHC juvenile homes.
The MHC VBTE Model has five treatment components:
- Service planning, which provides a family and community approach to meet the needs of youths and their families
- The skills curriculum, which provides staff with a teaching tool and promotes clear expectation and individualization for youths and their families
- Learning theory, which promotes the understanding of individual youths and their behavior, which is critical to creating effective motivation systems
- Motivation systems, which provide staff with a daily plan that supports the overall service plan, promotes therapeutic interactions, teaches and reinforces skills, and implements principles of the learning theory
- Therapeutic (focused) interactions, which provide youths with structured teaching and reinforcement based on each individual’s service plan and learning levels, and incorporates the motivation system that is modified for each youth [Strom et al. 2010, 1–1]
The five components are designed to complement one another and concentrate on the treatment and services provided to youths and their families. The success of the VBTE Model relies heavily on the interactions between counselors and adjudicated youths. Counselors teach youths that their behavioral choices are related to six values: respect, responsibility, spirituality, compassion, empowerment, and honesty. Youths begin to appreciate and understand how their behavior affects those around them, and they receive consistent feedback from MHC staff about how to modify these behaviors.
Before they are admitted, all referred youths are screened through face-to-face meetings that include MHC staff and the youths’ families. For each youth who is admitted to the program, an individualized service plan is created based on information on the youth’s history in addition to input from his or her family, residential counselors, court-appointed counselors, and teachers. These specialized plans are developed within 14 days of admission and are updated every 30 days afterward. Service plan goals are also reviewed during treatment team meetings, which are held within 15 days of admission and every 30 days afterward.
In addition, each youth works with a family service specialist who performs needs assessments of the youth and his or her family at admission, prepares the youth for appearances in juvenile court, helps reintegrate the youth with his or her family and school when released, coordinates community services, and assists in the youth’s development of skills and appropriate behavior.
10 to 18
Overall, the program evaluation by Strom and colleagues (2010) found mixed results. The Methodist Home for Children’s Value-Based Therapeutic Environment (VBTE) Model had significant effects on new charges and convictions for person offenses, but it did not significantly affect charges and convictions for property, drug, and public order offenses. Youths who received VBTE treatment did spend significantly fewer total days incarcerated, compared with control youths.
The evaluators found that fewer youths who received treatment through the VBTE Model were charged with a new offense during the 16-month follow-up period, compared with the control group youths. Of the VBTE treatment group youths, 62.8 percent were charged for a new offense, compared with 67.8 percent of the control group youths; however, this difference was not statistically significant.
VBTE treatment youths were significantly less likely than control group youths to have a recidivist charge for a person offense. Of the VBTE treatment group charged with a new offense, 16.7 percent were charged with a person offense, compared with 26.7 percent of the control group (a significant difference). However, there were no significant differences between the groups on new charges for property, drug, and public order offenses.
In addition, in the first 8 months of the follow-up period the rate of reoffending for VBTE youth was significantly lower than that of the control youth. On average, the first recidivist charge occurred 214 days after the study court date for VBTE youth, compared with 182 days for control youth. However, the rate of reoffending was not significantly different between the VBTE and control groups during the remainder of the 16-month follow-up period.
Youths in the VBTE treatment group were significantly less likely to be convicted of any new offense during the 16-month follow-up period, compared with youths in the control group (36.4 percent, versus 45.7 percent). Additionally, significantly fewer youth in the VBTE treatment group were convicted of a person offense, compared with youth in the control group (7.8 percent versus 14.3 percent). However, there were no significant differences in convictions for property, drug, and public order convictions.
There were fewer VBTE treatment youths (12.0 percent) who received a term of incarceration, compared with the control group youths (16.3 percent), but this difference was not statistically significant.
Of those youths who were committed to juvenile or adult facilities during the follow-up period, VBTE treatment youths spent significantly less time incarcerated than control group youth did. VBTE youths spent on average 129.5 days incarcerated, while control youths spent on average 194.5 days incarcerated (a statistically significant difference). VBTE youths spent significantly less time committed to adult facilities, compared with control youths (3.7 days versus 13.9 days); however, there was no significant difference in the amount of time VBTE and control youths were committed to juvenile facilities (125.7 days versus 180.6 days).
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