The Abraxas Specialized Treatment Program, formally known as The Open Residential Firesetting and Sexual Behavior Treatment Program, works with youth with firesetting and/ or sexual behavior issues as well as youth who identify with the following issues: neglect, abuse, disruptive attachments and various mental health disorders. The program serves delinquent and/or dependent male youth ages 11 to 16 (age requirements vary by program track). Youth placed for firesetting and/or sexual behaviors will be placed in our 12 month track and youth with behavioral issues will be placed in the 6 month Intensive Services Track.
The Specialized Treatment Program is now in its second year of certification by the state of Pennsylvania as a Specialized Treatment Setting for youth who are at risk for sex trafficking or human trafficking. All staff that work within the program are trained to utilize the Child Victims of Human Trafficking Screening Tool. This tool increases our means to identify those that are victims or have a vulnerability to human trafficking. Youth participate in weekly awareness and prevention group curricula through A21 Trafficking Awareness based upon their level of need. These sessions address safety, identification of risk factors, safe use of social media and resources available to provide assistance upon discharge.
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We work with each youth to develop healthy boundaries, establish appropriate attachments, cultivate age appropriate social skills, expand coping strategies, process trauma, and develop an understanding of and correctives for their behaviors. The clinical program is facilitated by a Master’s level clinical director and overseen by a consulting psychiatrist.
The program is based on a four phase curriculum:
Phase I: Introduction, Disclosure of problematic behaviors
Phase II: Impulse Control, Affect Management, Thinking Errors and Cognitive Distortions
Phase III: Moral Reasoning and improving Empathy Development
Phase IV: Critical Advanced Skills (Triggers and Cues and Relapse Prevention)
Residents learn to take responsibility for their behaviors, develop a thorough understanding of their offense cycle and deviant arousal patterns, explore the life experiences that may have contributed to their behaviors, increase their awareness of others and the impact of their behaviors, and develop a relapse prevention plan as they prepare to transition from the program.
Due to the age range of the population served in the Specialized Treatment Program, as well as the fact that residents are treated in an open environment, special consideration is paid to the potential risks to other residents and to the community and is a significant factor in determining the appropriateness of placement.
The treatment process at Abraxas is designed to address these issues with youth in an individualized manner. We work with each youth to develop healthy boundaries, establish appropriate attachments, cultivate age appropriate social skills, expand coping strategies, process trauma, and develop an understanding of and correctives for their behaviors. Residents are provided with numerous age-appropriate and experiential learning techniques to express themselves in more socially appropriate ways. This includes community service events, field trips and challenge course activities.
Different firesetters require different treatment approaches; This is NOT a ‘ONE SIZE FITS ALL’ clinical population. The below listed juvenile firesetter typology can be used to help recognize behaviors and begin to identify treatment needs. Effective outcomes are even more frequent when we carefully match treatment intensity to the seriousness of the juvenile firesetter’s problems.
|Curious or Accidental||Younger children who do not understand the basics of fire such as it hurts, it spreads, etc.||Fire Safety Education, including their caretakers (when possible). Possible counseling/therapy to help the child deal with the impact of their fire when indicated.|
|Crisis/Cry for Help||Children who use firesetting as a method (however distorted) to manage or resolve a crisis situation. Either they do not know how to get help or have psychological impediments to getting help.||Fire Safety Education, social service and/or counseling/therapy to resolve the underlying crisis. Relapse prevention so that future crisis situations do not lead to firesetting recidivism.|
|Delinquent||Usually middle school aged, these children derive pleasure from their intent to be destructive and the anti-authority aspect of setting a fire. Usually set fire with peers||Implementation of legal and financial consequences. Education regarding other potential and realistic consequences. Balanced and Restorative Justice initiatives such as restitution, containment when safety needs to be ensured and possible highly structured residential care in more serious cases.|
|Revenge*||Children, usually teenagers, who use fire to obtain revenge. This is easy to ascertain when the revenge is direct but more difficult to discern when the target is random.||Consequences for setting the fire are necessary. Residential care is often necessary. Treatment should focus on down regulation of anger as well as exploration of other underlying emotions that magnify anger (fear, shame, hurt, etc).|
|Maladaptive Coping*||For these teenagers, firesetting becomes a solution to feelings of alienation, poor self-esteem, anxiety, and the like.||Residential care is frequently indicated. Work must focus on removing fire from being a solution to in-depth psychological problems. These problems will also require considerable clinical work.|
|Fire Fascination*||These teenagers have almost always had an interest in fire as youngsters and, as they develop, their interest in fire grows with them to become quite unhealthy. They psychologically ‘light up’ when seeing or thinking of fire.||Residential care is usually required. These teenagers need to be externally curtailed from stimulating their fire interest until they can quell this fascination internally. They require considerable clinical care.|
|Thrill Seeking*||These teenagers get equal enjoyment from their firesetting as they do from their attempts to elude being caught. Their firesetting usually rapidly progresses to become more and more serious.||Highly structured residential care is mandated to interrupt their progressive firesetting and to clinically deal with underlying issues.|
|Complex Firesetters*||These teenagers will have a combination of types of firesetting sub-types. They thus have an all too high psychological interest in firesetting and use fire to regulate themselves in complex ways.||Highly structured residential care with intensive clinical care is necessary.|
The Intensive Services Track is designed for youth who identify with the following issues: neglect, abuse, disruptive attachments and various mental health disorders. Until these issues are adequately addressed, youth may work to process trauma or manage stress in unhealthy ways. This can result in children displaying acting out and significant behavioral issues. It’s because of this that Abraxas has started to work with these youth in its new 6 month track.The treatment approach is in part determined by the etiology of the behavior. Residents learn to take responsibility for their behaviors, develop a thorough understanding of their behavioral cycles and explore the life experiences that may have contributed to their behaviors. Additionally, they increase their awareness of others and the impact of their behaviors, and develop a relapse prevention plan as they prepare to transition from the program. Residents learn about and are required to maintain appropriate boundaries, learn to develop a sense of healthy masculinity, as well as establishing and maintaining healthy attachments. Residents also develop an understanding of their triggers, high risk situations and seemingly unimportant decisions. Due to the age range of the population served in the program, as well as the fact that residents are treated in an open environment, special consideration is paid to the potential risks to other residents and to the community and is a significant factor in determining the appropriateness of placement. The treatment process at Abraxas is designed to address these issues with youth in an individualized manner. Therapeutic staff works with youth to develop healthy boundaries, establish appropriate attachments, cultivate age appropriate social skills, expand coping strategies, process trauma, and develop an understanding of and correctives for their behaviors. Youth are provided with numerous age-appropriate and experiential learning techniques to express themselves in more socially appropriate ways. This includes community service events, field trips and challenge course activities.
The on-site school is a private elementary and secondary school licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Residents attend school daily and can earn credits that can be transferred. The program has certified Special Education teachers on staff.
Upon arrival, students are assessed and placed in the elementary/middle school or the high school classrooms depending on their age and ability level. Both classrooms are designed to closely parallel public school practices to ensure positive academic performance upon discharge from the program. Cooperative learning and hands on manipulatives are commonly used to supplement lessons. Students visit the on-site library to encourage reading and literacy improvement outside of the classroom. Students are consistently rewarded for academic accomplishment, achieving honor roll and maintaining positive behavior in the classroom. For older or more academically advanced students, preparation programs are offered along with PSAT and SAT testing to prepare for post-secondary education.
Experiential education opportunities are available through our Leadership Experiential Adventure Program (LEAP) which provides experiential learning opportunities, adventure-based programming, community service, restitution, vocational programming an workforce development opportunities.Download the PACTT Matrix
The program has numerous community partnerships which provide educational opportunities, community awareness/ engagement, and community service hours. In 2018, residents completed nearly 1000 hours of community service. Residents and staff of the Specialized Treatment Program support the local and surrounding communities by participating in service leaning projects at: Knick Knack Pittie Pack Animal Shelter; Antietam Animal Shelter; East Coast Exotic Animal Rescue; and local Therapeutic Riding Center.
The Abraxas Specialized Treatment Program recognizes the value of having families involved and informed throughout admission and the treatment process. Family engagement at the facility can be achieved in a variety of ways to strengthen the family relationships and build a stronger foundation for the child's return home. Families are encouraged to stay involved through visitation, conferences and regularly scheduled phone contacts. Assistance for families is provided as needed and includes video conferencing, transportation, overnight accommodations and financial gas assistance. Upon a youth’s arrival at the program, families will be contacted and provided information on how they can stay involved throughout their child's time in treatment.
The Specialized Treatment Program is a certified PREA Facility
The Specialized Treatment Program has partnered with the Sanctuary Institute for clinical and organizational change
The Specialized Treatment Program is affiliated with the Pennsylvania Academic Career/Technical Training Alliance