At Compass Rose Academy, our direct care staff use the Teaching Family Model (TFM), a relational, evidenced-based, trauma-informed model of care focused on increasing life skill development in children and teens.

When using TFM, our direct care staff engage in daily teaching interactions to help teens learn social and relationship skills. Residential staff, now called Family Teachers, develop these skills using a motivation system that is positive and strengths-based, while still holding youth accountable for their choices. The skills youth learn through the model will then translate to better parent-child interaction, improved school behavior following placement, and increased work readiness.

While it all sounds good on paper, many might wonder what TFM looks like practically. Here is a little bit of insight into the daily world of TFM.

Every student starts with working on five basic skills: follow instructions, ask permission, accept no for an answer, greeting skills, and accept feedback. There are a total of 50 skills for the students to work on throughout their time at CRA. 

Students are required to get a certain number of signatures per day, which they achieve by getting “positives.” Positives are given out when a staff member notices the student displaying a skill they are working on. If the student receives her total number of signatures, she is granted privileges, such as watching TV, the next day. The amount of signatures required per day decreases as the student moves through the stages of treatment.

In TFM, consequences are called “practices.” When a student “earns a practice,” the staff member will tell the student specifically how she did not follow the skill she is working on and then explain what following that skill would have looked like in that situation and why that skill is important, including why it will serve the student well outside of Compass Rose. Staff members never use the words, “You didn’t…” or “You should have…”

In order for the student to fulfill their practice, the staff member will walk them through a scenario involving the same skill and have the student respond with what utilizing that skill would look like in that scenario. 

“TFM is very intentional about being clear on what creates a positive interaction and what creates a negative interaction. They turn what sounds like it should be pretty gray into a very black and white system of natural repercussions that the students earn versus the staff giving out consequences. It is no longer me being the bad guy; I am not the reason they have this repercussion, they are the reason they have this repercussion,” said Eden Snyder, Residential Supervisor.

In the last stage of the student’s treatment before going home, the staff asks the student’s parents, and the student herself, what she should be working on as she looks toward going home.

“I feel like it’s very realistic for our parents to take some of what we teach the students here and take it home and continue it in a way that they are now not arguing over things, they are just calling out behavior,” said Natasha Whitney, Residential Supervisor.