WrapAround Program

It’s all in the name – WrapAround.   A community wraps itself around a family or individual in need, providing unconditional and nonjudgmental care that will allow for everyone to benefit.

WrapAround is an ancient concept in some ways; from the beginning of time, communities have taken care of themselves, creatively solved issues and refused to give up on members. The formal concept of WrapAround service provision developed about 30 years ago and was more about how to stop the money drain that occurs when minor children are placed out of their homes and sometimes out of state in an effort to address mental health, criminal or familial issues. WrapAround pioneers recognized that the immense amounts of money spent on out-of-home placement could be redirected toward purchasing home-based services that would keep kids in school and attached to their families and communities. Even with many in-home services being purchased, the dollars spent were nowhere near the cost of out-of-home placement.

A funny thing happened on the way to the cost savings: in an effort to ensure that in-home services would succeed and that families were supported in keeping their child/children at home, WrapAround pioneers truly enlisted families in their own unique, healing process. Families were included in all phases of planning; they were treated as experts on their own, idiosyncratic situations; family strengths were identified at the same time that needs were assessed.

Family inclusion and respect are cornerstones of WrapAround.  From beginning to end, the knowledge, skills and strengths of the family are considered essential to the success of the program. Here’s how a WrapAround referral might unfold:

  • A family is referred to the program (via self-referral, the schools, the Juvenile Assessment Center, or any number of other referral agencies).
  • A WrapAround family facilitator meets with the family to explain the process and highlight the voluntary and family-friendly nature of the process. The facilitator listens to the family’s take on their situation and conducts a strengths-based assessment.
  • Based on the needs and strengths assessments, the family and facilitator will identify people to be invited to a WrapAround team meeting; the majority of people invited to participate in the team meeting are the family’s natural resources, such as teachers, pastors, friends, relatives, doctors or whomever. The family often also invites agency representatives or professionals who could potentially lend expertise or services to address some of the needs identified in the assessment.
  • The WrapAround team, including the family, meets to discuss needs, strengths, and strategies to address the issues and build on strengths. The facilitator guides that process of delineating clear action items for which members of the team accept responsibility.
  • The team operates in an “anything is possible” atmosphere, examining the fundamental causative factors in the family’s situation and are incredibly creative in addressing those factors:
    • For example, WrapAround has employed a well-known strategy called “Friendly Gorillas,” in which volunteers or paid professionals provide direct, hands-on support services to the family. In the case of truancy, a “Friendly Gorilla” might call on the student in the morning; roust him out of bed; encourage him to get dressed; drive him to school; sit next to him in class; tutor him in subjects with which he’s struggling; supervise homework, etc. The “Friendly Gorilla” does whatever it takes to address the specific issues the family has pinpointed.
  • With support from the WrapAround team, the family implements the action plan. The facilitator continues to provide advocacy and support services, but team members are the doers in this process. The idea is to establish sustainable supports that won’t just disappear.

One of the hallmarks of WrapAround is that it’s unconditional, meaning no one gets dismissed from the process. If a family, individual or agency is struggling with part of the agreed-upon action plan, then the team meets and revisits that action plan. Anyone who works with kids or families will agree that “one size fits all” is an ineffective strategy for humans. WrapAround is all about customized services tailored to each unique and wonderful family, honoring their culture and what’s important to them.

In September 2006, WrapAround came to Douglas County operating under the umbrella of the Douglas County Youth Initiative. The program has been supported and further developed through the collaboration many community partners.

Douglas County WrapAround is committed to the core concepts of the program: Inclusivity, Respect, Compassion, Real Solutions, Unconditional Care, Cost-savings and Success.

For more information on Douglas County WrapAround please contact Marsha Alston, Youth Services Program Manager at 303.688.4825 ext 5327 or e-mail at malston@douglas.co.us