Bringing strengths based planning into the school system is one of the incredibly impactful things you can do for kids in wraparound. School is absolutely critical to future success, and kids in wraparound often have a lot going against them in terms of access to and readiness for an education. Trauma, stress, change, and trouble at home all make learning more difficult.
Traditional plans look at problems like poor grades or attendance, and apply generic services. Billy is struggling in math – let’s get him a tutor. Susan isn’t reading at grade level – let’s put her in a remedial class. Worse, traditional planning can be very punitive – Josh is missing a lot of school, he is going to be held back/suspended/cut from the one thing he enjoys about school (basketball).
These options can be helpful in certain circumstances, but they can actually make things worse sometimes. It depends on the child, and why the problem is happening.
Strength based planning, on the other hand, starts with what the child loves or is good at. Take Susan. She isn’t reading at grade level. She also is hungry most nights, has to listen to her parents have loud, violent fights, and has low self-esteem. Putting her in a remedial class won’t help her have a safe space to practice at night, and it won’t make her more confident. It might make her stop trying at all.
Susan loves horses. Her biggest dream is to have one. She also would really like to have at least one friend at her new school, and she is great at drawing. What if, instead of sticking her right into remedial reading, we found another little girl or two who likes horses, and helped them start a reading club?
We tried it. Susan tried extra hard because she was interested in the books, and because she wanted the other girls to like her. Her reading improved. She made friends. She started to look forward to school. Remedial classes might have accomplished the first thing, but not the last two. Strengths based planning made the difference.