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Monday, Oct 29, 2012

Sanctuary Model Bolstering Berkshire’s Culture of Care and Treatment

… Recognizing that Trauma Affects Everyone

imageBerkshire Farm Center is changing its entire culture to better care for and treat some of New York State’s most traumatized and vulnerable children and their families, and to support those who work directly with them.

The Agency’s family specialists, clinicians, counselors, and support staff deal first hand with children who have experienced unspeakable trauma and betrayal. These youth often don't trust anyone, and Berkshire has found a better way to give them the best chance to heal from their traumas and grow stronger as they approach adulthood.

Because Berkshire Farm Center is focused on outcomes, the agency continually searches for ways to improve the long-term effects of its treatment and care. "After reviewing a number of evidence-based treatment models, we ultimately chose the Sanctuary Model®," explained Berkshire CEO Timothy Giacchetta. "Sanctuary is a highly regarded trauma-informed, evidence-supported approach that focuses not only on the people seeking treatment, but also on those providing that treatment.” Professional counselors and clinicians deal very closely with the myriad of traumas suffered by their clients, and Sanctuary recognizes the effects of mental, emotional, and physical trauma on children and adults. "Sanctuary is helping Berkshire to ensure everyone gets the support they need as they deal with extended exposure to adversity,” Giacchetta added.

Giacchetta and other leaders at the child welfare agency realized that changing the organization’s culture would require a serious, long-term commitment from everyone involved. imageNearly two years ago, a team of Berkshire staff members became certified Sanctuary trainers. These trainers then began the long process of training all staff, even those who don’t deal directly with youth.  At the heart of Sanctuary are seven commitments made by all staff (see illustration at right).

The Andrus Institute, a leading provider and innovator of services for children and families, developed the Sanctuary® model, and certifies organizations meeting its high standards of training and implementation.

“We want everyone at Berkshire to understand the effects of trauma, not just on the children and families we serve, but also on our employees,” said Giacchetta. Berkshire is now well on its way on the three-year process of becoming a certified Sanctuary® agency.

Every Berkshire Farm Center office and facility is deeply involved in implementing Sanctuary. Initially, staff from across the state came together for five days to be trained in the model. A Core Team brings leaders together from all administration and program areas and guides the implementation process to help shape a unified organizational culture. Implementation Teams focus on individual program and administrative areas. These Implementation Teams provide training for all staff in the central concepts of Sanctuary, including the SELF model (above) and the Seven Commitments (right). They also create opportunities for reinforcing the emerging trauma-informed culture, at the team level through a wide variety of activities.

imageOne recent activity was a Scavenger held in Buffalo, New York. Teams were quizzed on their knowledge of core Sanctuary principles, and as they raced through the city of Buffalo, they were reminded to follow the Commitment to Non-Violence by keeping themselves and each other safe. The day was also a reminder that self-care is important too and that we all need to take some time now and then to relieve stress and recharge our batteries.

Berkshire has been fulfilling its mission “to strengthen children and families so they can live safely, independently, and productively within their home communities” for 126 years.

According to the Andrus Center for Learning and Innovation, the Sanctuary Model® is a blueprint for clinical and organizational change which, at its core, promotes safety and recovery from adversity through the active creation of a trauma-informed community. A recognition that adversity is pervasive in the experience of human beings forms the basis for the Sanctuary Model’s focus not only on the people who seek services, but equally on the people and systems who provide those services. You can learn more about Andrus and Sanctuary at

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