Marsh Foundation Utilizes Family Teaching Model and Family Conferences to Help Youth Learn Responsibility and Leadership
VAN WERT, Ohio – A key concept within the Family Teaching Model is called self-government, and it’s a way to help youths at The Marsh Foundation set certain rules and guidelines while holding themselves and their peers accountable.
It’s an inclusive process that promotes family cohesiveness, helps develop relationships and teaches responsibility, leadership and problem-solving skills.
One of the crucial components is the family conference and according to Emery Rogers, lead family teacher at Marsh Hall, it’s held three times a week.
“The purpose of the family conference is they (the youths) pick topics from the house, then self-govern,” Rogers explained. “It isn’t always the staff correcting behaviors or deciding what the rules are. What we find is kids are a little harsher than we would be.”
“What it does is help the kids invest in their own future. What we (family teachers) try to do is maintain the order of it, so if someone gets mad or gets out of hand, we back it up. We don’t solve the problem, except to ask how to handle it, then they come up with the solution.”
“Family conference is super important as it is the main vessel for youths to have more control over the everyday decisions that directly affect their daily life, Marsh Hall’s program manager, Ben Marsee said. “When done properly, the self-government process can be very effective. Youths learn to problem solve alone and in a group of their peers, and this knowledge transfers directly into the job market and provides them with skills they might not otherwise develop.”
A rotating manager is chosen on a weekly basis by peers to run the meeting, with notes taken by an assistant and during the meetings, youths have the opportunity to voice concerns and make suggestions.
“It is amazing to see a youth’s confidence grow as he becomes part of the managerial system,” Marsee said. “The youth then take that confidence with them to school and other parts of their life and are able to be more assertive and successful.”
At a recent family conference, one of the topics centered around changing the day of weekly elections of manager and assistant manager. After a group discussion, which included advantages and disadvantages of a change, the decision was made to keep weekly elections on Sundays.
“You’re not supposed to have dishes in your room,” one youth pointed out. “You’re not supposed to eat or drink in your room and it’s common sense those things attract bugs.”
“That’s exactly what the family conference is supposed to do, address how the house itself is run,” Rogers said. “If they understand the other kids don’t approve, they’re more apt to internalize it and change it.”
“It has a secondary effect to their cognitive skills,” Rogers continued. “What happens is most kids feel alone in the world, but when they have these meetings they understand they’re part of something and they begin to believe they’re part of something and part of a family.”
The use of regular family conferences and self-government also helps teach children at The Marsh Foundation the importance of listening, taking turns, giving and receiving constructive criticism, as well as group problem solving, lessons that are meant to be lifelong.
The Marsh Foundation is a not-for-profit children’s services agency that provides services in a variety of settings. Services include group homes, family foster care (ages 0-17), an intensive treatment program, adoption and independent living services. Located in Van Wert, Ohio, the organization’s group homes are licensed for up to 30 children ages 7 – 17, offers an on-campus school for grades 2 – 12 and provides a variety of clinical services to group home residents, foster care children and community members.