A Visit to Calo Through the Eyes of a Referring Professional

 We have gotten some nice press recently and I wanted to share that on our blog. The following article can be seen at strugglingteens.com. Here is the URL if you want to see the article there: http://www.strugglingteens.com/artman/publish/Calo-VR_110314.shtml

Kimball Delamare is an expert in the residential treatment field and we were glad to have him spend some time with us. Here is what he wrote about Calo:



Visit by Kimball DeLaMare, LCSW
Report on visit and consulting work January, 2011:

Over three years ago, I had the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Ken Huey and his staff at Calo as they prepared for a Joint Commission survey. At the time Calo had been open for several months, but was still in its formative stages as a provider of residential treatment to adolescents with emotional dysregulation, relational challenges stemming primarily from early trauma and attachment problems and other significant concerns.

The staff had done a lot of research, had trained with national experts in attachment, such as Dr. Dan Hughes, Dr. Ron Federici, and Dr. Bruce Perry, and had worked to learn from leaders in the treatment of younger children in settings such as Sandhill, Villa Santa Maria, Intermountain Children’s Home and Forest Heights Lodge.
Combining tried and true methods of intervention with their own innovations–which included "transferable attachment", experiential challenges where individual mastery could occur, and high quality relational therapy initiatives–they had developed an effective model.

As I visited on the campus early this year and then spent a few days with Ken I found that the good initial work had evolved into a mature, well-integrated model. Here are some of the key elements that impressed me:

1.   Transferable Attachment as a key component – Calo’s initial work to utilize Golden Retrievers as catalysts to teach key relational skills such as trust, nurture, responsibility, empathy and security has been remarkably fine-tuned. Dogs now are often a complete part of a student’s day. They board in student rooms and receive all daily care from individual students. They even form into an interactive "performance team" with students who are able to successfully work with their dogs to follow complex commands, complete obstacle courses, and behave far better than the little Maltese we have in our home. The feelings, behaviors, frustrations, achievements and bonding that occurs along the way as students work with the dogs is rich with lessons that transfer to person to person relationships, and the clinical staff are quick to capitalize and impress such learning. I look forward to the research that is coming from this innovative work.

2.   A true relationally-oriented model, Calo does not merely give "lip service" to the goal of providing students with relationally-based support. Training and selection of all staff members has become a passion with managers who possess ever-increasing skill to find the right staff for a model that demands individualized support for behavioral and emotional crises. The Calo model provides on-demand one on one support, so it has to have a rich staff to student ratio. Calo is more than one to one during the waking hours with a mix of 1:3 direct care (residential coaches) staff to students. Adding in therapists, teachers, recreational staff, and nursing staff, there is always the opportunity for the personal support many students with attachment challenges need. Change Academy had a goal to provide strong, ongoing training. Most places begin to stray from such goals over time, but not Calo. I have found comprehensive training seminars with direct care staff regularly receiving 1.5 hours of clinical training every week. Calo has been creative in the development of training mechanisms such as articles, videos and accompanying quizzes to ensure initial understanding followed by live observation of learned skills.

3.   Improved development and integration of allied services–

Calo is one of the only residential treatment programs where there is 24 hour nursing.

Calo combines student-specific individual classes with qualified teachers and over 60 on-line courses to meet the unique needs of students, many of whom lack certain foundational principles in subject areas and consequently fall further behind if placed in general subject classes.

Calo’s recreational work has matured to a level where service, experiential initiatives, mastery of water sport skills, hiking and running are well integrated into the treatment paradigm.

4.   Plant improvements – Change Academy has been clever in leveraging a large, open area between student rooms to allow observation, socially engineered interactions of varying intensity and instant access to staff support. All while they have carefully exposed students to many interactive experiences that gently propel relationship work, instead of isolation and segmentation, that youth with attachment and emotional dysregulation challenges typically seek, often to their detriment. The plant is warm, colorful and fits student life well.

5.   Calo is working to better understand aftercare challenges through the ongoing participation of therapists with most families after discharge, but the transition to other caregivers and to a community where students experienced past trauma and failure continues to be a challenge. Academics have improved but will benefit from recent initiatives to improve initial assessment and utilize the special education teaching staff more effectively with the full treatment team. 

All in all, it has been exciting to see the focused work Calo does with a population many less courageous professionals have been hesitant to serve. Reactive Attachment, trauma related fears, older adoptees, those with some spectrum related issues all benefit from this model. I look forward to how the Change Academy will look in another three years!