When the Family First Prevention Services Act (Family First) was enacted in February 2018, the staff at UCC-related Charles Hall Youth & Family Services in Bismarck, N.D., saw the opportunity to not only remain part of the foster care continuum of care in the state and receive funding, but to improve and expand its services. On Oct. 1, when the act took effect, that new era of care kicked off as Charles Hall was officially licensed as a Qualified Residential Treatment Program, a requirement of Family First.
The timeline and to-do list for successfully fulfilling the Family First requirements was short, but the Charles Hall staff focused on achieving all of the milestones. First on the list was becoming nationally accredited through the Council on Accreditation (COA).
“Becoming nationally accredited took a tremendous amount of time and effort by our entire management and professional staff,” says Gayle Klopp, executive director of administration and operations. For most agencies becoming accredited for the first time, the process takes 12 to 18 months. “We completed the process in a record five months,” Klopp adds, from March through July of this year.
Most remarkable is that Charles Hall did not need to provide any additional information or make additional changes following a multiple day on-site visit by COA reviewers. Not only that, but “our agency received high ratings in a majority of the standards reviewed,” says Gayla Sherman, executive director of programs and resource development. “As you can imagine, our staff team was elated with the review results.”
So what does this mean for the services Charles Hall provides to the local community? One benefit is a new, well-defined trauma-informed model of care. Accreditation requirements specified that the model be approved by the federal government as evidence-based and reliable, and that all staff be trained.
“We chose the Risking Connection/Restorative Approach model of system change and a new working relationship with the Traumatic Stress Institute and the Klingberg Family Centers [based in Connecticut],” says Sherman. In the Restorative Approach model, rather than penalize a child for losing control, staff assign learning and restorative tasks to help the child learn skills and make amends; this helps the child understand that they can handle emotions differently and take effective action to mend relationships.
Charles Hall also worked with the North Dakota Department of Children and Family Services to rewrite the state’s administrative rules and regulations for licensing the new QRTP agencies. The added benefit was a “strengthening of our relationship with Children and Family Services,” says Klopp.
Another partnership also was strengthened, thanks to the process. “During our initial months of working toward accreditation, we reached out to our CHHSM colleagues at Hoyleton Youth and Family Services [based in Fairview Heights, Ill.],” says Klopp. “Their support and direction were invaluable as we pursued this new course and readied our agency for Family First.”
Hoyleton was happy to lend a hand to the process. As a member of the CHHSM family, “when we have something that we can share to help one of our brothers and sisters out, we feel a sense of responsibility to do so,” says Chris L. Cox, president and CEO of Hoyleton. “Often, when member agencies are in the middle of a crunch to meet a timeline or project, having the ability for someone to offer suggestions or input can genuinely make a different in getting the project done on time or not. Hoyleton was honored to be asked to share, and we were glad to offer the little bit that we could, but the real achievement belongs to Charles Hall and their staff.”
Two enhanced Charles Hall programs growing out of the Family First requirements are prevention services and aftercare services. “This means federal dollars can be used to try to prevent children at risk of entering foster care from entering the system,” Klopp says.
Not only can dollars now be used before a child is removed from their residence, but Charles Hall also can provide aftercare services when the child returns to a family or foster home. “The emphasis is to provide a home environment whenever possible and thwart placement in congregate care for the youth,” says Sherman.
Part of Charles Hall’s expanded services also include new opportunities for family engagement, including with siblings, during a youth’s residential placement at Charles Hall, as well as six months of aftercare services for the child and family. “We’ve always known that this was important and wanted to provide strong family work and aftercare; but in the past, our organization did not have the sanction or the financial underwriting from the state to do family engagement,” Sherman adds.
The increased family engagement programming will include intentional therapeutic work with siblings when possible, says Sherman. Additional family engagement specialists will be hired, and additional training and partnerships with other providers will be key. “North Dakota is a very rural state, so partnerships are essential,” she adds.
“Some 50 percent of the youth served by Charles Hall are Native American,” Klopp says. “Culturally, the extended family is extremely important in Native American tribes. We are excited by the opportunity to strengthen our relationships with families of area tribal nations.”
As part of celebrating its new programming, Charles Hall is completing a corporate rebranding. On July 16, “family” was added to Charles Hall’s official name, and a new logo was developed.
“The name change embraces our broadening scope of services, plus our foundational commitment to families,” says Sherman. “The logo, with its colors and contemporary flower-like design, signal joy, hope, diversity and growth — and something new.”
Additionally, a new website that more accurately promotes and reflects Charles Hall’s enhanced services will debut before the end of the year. CHHSM web specialist Tyler Hoffman has been integral to the online rebranding.
“Our connection with Tyler has proven invaluable,” says Sherman. “His working relationship with us has been so important — and he is a delight with which to work.”
Hoffman says updating the online identity of Charles Hall was of crucial importance. “Having a modern and professional online brand is crucial for nonprofit organizations. After all, your website often informs the first impression of potential donors and clients as well as regulators,” he says. “Working with the staff of Charles Hall Youth and Family Services, we refined their digital image by introducing new branding complete with an updated logo, typeface and color palate. Moreover, we created a brand new, cost-effective website that will enable the organization to present content in an organized, mobile-friendly way moving forward.”
In 2020, Charles Hall Youth & Family Services will celebrate its 55th year of providing services to the Bismarck community. The new enhanced services are a perfect way to celebrate Charles Hall’s renewed vision. As Klopp puts it, “It’s been a whirlwind and God, indeed, is guiding our sails!”
To learn more about Charles Hall or invest in its future, contact Rhonda Styles-Rohde at 701-255-2773, ext. 301.