The therapeutic milieu of the school supports and reinforces the positive behavioral changes in students while they are here. Once they leave the structured environment of the campus, however, maintaining their new behaviors can be a challenge. Transition counseling addresses these challenges and helps students apply their new behaviors to situations they are likely to encounter as they return home to their family and friends, or as they begin college.
Off-Campus Overnight Visits
Our transition program begins with the very first overnight visit. Away from the school, students must deal again with their parents, siblings, and modern American culture. These first overnights are often important learning experiences for everyone. Upon returning, students check in with their FFS house at the table about the visit, where it went well and where it didn't. If a student experienced severe problems while off campus, a counselor may call and discuss the situation with the student's parents.
Activities During the Last Semester
During the student's last semester, elements of the transition process are integrated into the student's day-to-day life.
First, the student visits home more often-generally three to six times over the course of the semester. After each visit the student is debriefed, the parents are phoned, and a family group may be scheduled if necessary.
Second, the student is given many opportunities to talk to a counselor about future plans and any anxiety he or she might have regarding leaving. Graduating seniors are placed in a special section of Living Skills, which focuses on the challenges of college, dorm life, and independent living. Other exiting students deal with transition issues in their group counseling sessions or at the table in their FFS house, and all students discuss their concerns with their sponsor and junior sponsor.
Parents become increasingly involved in their child's life as we near graduation. Contact between staff at the school and parents is often more frequent during a student's last six months than during any other time as they complete college applications, applications for other schools, plan and debrief about home visits, and discuss living arrangements, expectations, and other transition issues. By this time, parents will have developed a rapport with staff and be well acquainted with our program. Parents may also be getting help through Families Anonymous and 12&12, an online support and discussion group for FFS parents, and will have made changes at home that facilitate their child's return. Since many parents of alumni remain active in the 12&12, we urge parents to use that resource to help prepare for their child's return. There is a special section of the 12&12 just for alumni parents.
The Transition Seminar
A formal transition seminar is scheduled for all students and their parents prior to graduation or completion of the program. To prepare for this meeting, both are asked to write out their hopes, concerns and expectations for each other in a letter. The seminar offers ways to ensure a smooth reintegration as the family resumes living together and adjusts to the changes that have been made all around.
After leaving the school, many students and some parents continue their connection to staff and students here through email and telephone. We encourage students to find an outside sponsor as soon as possible, but it isn't unusual for a student's FFS sponsor to remain in that role for three to six months. Our staff continues to give help to parents and students who seek it for as long as it is needed.