The Focus House program is built upon a framework of five distinct program components:
The basic philosophy and mission of Focus House’s counseling component, at all levels, is to improve the mental well-being and lifestyle functionality of the youth and their families. As such, because a child’s success is directly related to their home environment, parents and caregivers actively participate in the counseling process throughout the child’s involvement in the Focus House program. Motivational Interviewing and other services are provided based on the principles of risk, need, and responsivity.
Upon placement in Focus House, each child is assigned a primary counselor who develops a treatment plan based on each youth’s identified criminogenic needs. These plans are reviewed during quarterly treatment-planning meetings, and adjusted accordingly. All youth are involved in individual, group, and family counseling. Groups for parents are also scheduled and the topics vary based on need.
Focus House provides specialized on-site education based on each child’s age and academic need. Teachers have special education credentials and are certified to teach elementary, junior high, and high school-aged students. In all aspects of our school component, we strive to provide a challenging school environment similar to that of public schools. For example, it is not unusual for children to have daily homework assignments from more than one teacher, just like in traditional schools. Earned class credits transfer back to home schools upon a child’s discharge from the Focus House program. Further, Focus House also offers a summer school curriculum which includes classroom learning, educational field trips, and work experience, if appropriate.
Upon placement in Focus House, a school social worker and psychologist complete a case study evaluation for each child. The findings of this evaluation are then shared and discussed with the parents at an educational planning meeting. Educational expectations are individualized based upon these findings, with the goal and mission to maximize each student’s learning potential, and to either mainstream the student into a local (Rochelle) school prior to their release, or back to their home school.
The goal of Focus House’s residential component is to assist the children in developing improved daily-living skills, social skills, senses of responsibility and overall attitudes. Daily expectations include such tasks as keeping their rooms clean and organized, completing daily housekeeping chores, demonstrating proper meal etiquette, and completion of all homework assignments.
Upon arrival at Focus House, children are assigned to one of three residential home units, based upon their gender. Two homes are dedicated to males, and one to females. As the children share bedrooms, special consideration is taken to matching children appropriately.These may vary based on the nees of the program.
Staff are required to keep children under constant supervision. Throughout the night, routine bed checks are conducted to assure the children are not ill or experiencing problems. A staff nurse is available throughout the day and all children are given complete physical examinations, vision and hearing tests, and dental exams.
Focus House goes to great strides to ensure that the residences are safe, clean and nurturing, and that they provide a homey, non-institutional, environment. Further, special religious considerations (food, holiday recognitions, services and practices) are accommodated whenever possible.
The full size gymnasium provides physical education opportunities and also functions as the cafeteria.
Based on Focus House’s level system, residents earn more privileges as they are promoted. This can include later bed times and more free time for watching TV, playing video/board games, or requesting the use of the gymnasium or fitness room facilities. Additionally, Focus House maintains an excellent library on campus, stocked with resource and leisure materials and newspapers and magazines are subscribed to for the residences. Staff members also plan special evening functions such as movie nights or theme meals around holidays and special events.
Volunteers are used for those residents who earn outings during the week, giving them an opportunity to spend some quality time with a qualified adult mentor.
Finally, as time and schedules permit, field trips are planned. Occurring usually in the summer or over school holidays, these trips have involved such activities as fishing, attending baseball games, and Chicago sightseeing.
The aftercare services component of the Focus House program is designed to help youth successfully transition back into their home, school, and community. Aftercare services are offered to all Ogle County youth exiting the program. These services, generally provided for at least six months after the child returns home, include individual, group and family counseling. Progress is closely monitored by the Aftercare Counselor and includes visits to the home and school.
To successfully complete the aftercare component, youth must meet program expectations such as: participating in an extra-curricular activity, meeting school expectations, following rules in their homes and, of course, following all probation and court orders.