Wraparound for Special Populations

Wraparound was developed and improved for children with severe emotional disorders who were currently in or at risk of being put into out of home placements. There was a general expectation that these children were going to live at home with their families and parent engagement was a very high priority.  These children are often involved in many systems when they entered wraparound, more providers are often added during wraparound, and the process engages multiple natural supports to improve collaboration and integration.  Ten years ago, these kinds of families were the only kind who received wraparound. The process was designed to fit them, and emphased team meetings and team based decision making.  After experience with thousands of families, it is clear this approach does not support family empowerment and successful transition as well as individualizing the process to each family’s culture of support during the implementation of wraparound.  This has resulted in fundamental changes to the ways in which we approach wraparound.

Research and experience has supported other innovations. As wraparound grows and matures, it is being used for may “special” populations in addition to use for children with SED and intact families.  These populations are benefiting just as much as the original wraparound recipients from the process, but they require different approaches. This section describes some of those populations and necessary innovations to serve them:

  • Very young children.  Wraparound projects serving very young children began in Kansas and Illinois in 1996.  These programs focused on at risk children 0-3 years whose primary caregivers had mental health or substance abuse disorders.  These projects were targeted to prevent severe problems later in childhood. Other programs since have focused on very young children with severe emotional and/or behavioral challenges. When done with fidelity, these programs have demonstrated excellent outcomes for parents and children.  The parents in these families require on average slower and more strengths-based engagement, these are very different and fewer “team” members, and team meetings often reduce parental engagement.
  • Children in state custody.  From the early days in wraparound, children were often in child welfare custody or juvenile justice detention or probation at the beginning of the wraparound process.  In these situations family voice and choice must be modified and engagement of the legal representative is essential.  With the large caseloads so many of these staff have, communication and decision-making may also change.  Innovations in how to manage teams without full team meetings are often needed.  If reunification is the objective of the plan, these are the main modifications.  If the child or youth is not going back to their biological parents, then there are many more changes needed.
  • Youth in residential care.  When youth are in residential care, many of the dynamics of wraparound also change. It is critical that key residential staff be involved in the process. However, the primary goal for these children and youths is not to do well in residential, but to move back into the community as soon as is reasonable and to do well there.  The primary team should be composed of members who will be there long after the child or youth is out of residential care.  The youths need people who will support them back in the community. One of the focus areas for VVDB is working with residential providers to offer a holistic service that can build community programs.
  • Transition age youth.  When youths become older, decision-making in wraparound shifts from the family to the youth.  This is especially true when the youth is in an out-of-home placement or is living away from their parents.  At this point, planning centers around the youth and includes the family as part of the youth’s decision-making support group.  The natural supports are for the youth and plans and supports are based on where the youth will be after wraparound ends.
  • Homeless youth and adults.  VVDB has supported wraparound for homeless youth and adults. In these situations, family involvement is based on the goals and choice of the individual.  Often, these programs focus on creating new long-term natural supports along with services and supports to achieve the vision of the homeless individual.
  • Adult prisoners.  VVDB has trained and coached staff in several states to provide wraparound for repeat offenders beginning about six months before release.   In a randomly controlled study recidivism was reduced by over 400% for the wraparound group.
  • Faith-based wraparound.  VVDB has been supporting faith-based organizations to provide wraparound through lay volunteers for families with less complex needs for over a decade.
  • Young women in the sex industry.  A project has been ongoing in Seattle to provide wraparound for young women in the sex industry.  Going to the streets and engaging these young women takes some very innovative engagement strategies and the process involves more surrogate natural supports and fewer providers and current natural supports.

We have worked closely with systems serving all of these populations. For more information, contact us.


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