clear   Appendix:   Alternative Rehabilitation Communities (ARC)
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

At A Glance

Staff-secure residential treatment facility offering a continuum of care for girls ages 15½ to 18 years; capacity, 15 girls; funded by individual counties and school districts

ARC, founded in 1975 to serve delinquent adolescents, opened Zimmerman Home for Girls in 1981 after the Department of Probation indicated a lack of resources or options for girls in the juvenile justice system. The girls' program is housed in a two-story, family-style home in a residential neighborhood. The bedrooms, on the second floor, accommodate up to four girls each.

ARC's program philosophy is focused on results: "If the outcome of our behavior, actions, and attitude is good for our students, then it is worth doing. If the outcome of our behavior, actions, and attitude is not good for our students, then it is not worth doing. We are the role models for our students. Therefore, our behavior, actions, and attitude must always be presented positively." Far from being a "whatever works" strategy, the philosophy emphasizes "choice theory." This reality-based approach reminds girls that they have control over their behavior and that they can choose positive and beneficial behaviors.

The all-female staff (approximately 75 percent African-American and 25 percent Caucasian) reflects the racial diversity of the participants. Staff training is intensive and ongoing. Full-time staff receive a minimum of eight weeks of training prior to working with girls. Part-time staff receive 32 hours of training by shadowing a senior staff person. Experienced staff share their expertise in formal training sessions and by serving as "peer coaches" with their colleagues. Teachers receive an additional two to four weeks of training, including observation of a current teacher. Gender-specific staff training includes discussion of such topics as, "What does it mean to be female?" and "Females and emotions." Staff positions include teachers, teacher's aides, counselors, and a counselor supervisor.

Girls are referred to the program by the Children and Youth Services Agency or the Department of Corrections. Their juvenile records vary, but many girls have been convicted of assault. They have faced serious risk factors such as educational difficulties, substance abuse, dysfunctional families, involvement with older males, gang affiliation, codependency, physical and sexual abuse, lack of self-esteem, and repeated running away. Codependency and sexual abuse are the most prominent factors.

Before being admitted to the Zimmerman Home, girls must complete an interview during which staff assess their willingness and readiness to work with the program. Once they become enrolled in the program, girls are encouraged to participate in the planning of their own treatment.

The staff at Zimmerman Home takes a holistic treatment approach, addressing issues related to the individual, family, and school. At intake, girls are evaluated for academic placement and receive an individual educational plan. Specific treatment needs are assessed, followed by development of an individualized treatment plan. A home visit is scheduled as soon as a girl is admitted to the program, to help parents understand how the program works and learn how they can help their daughter succeed. Parents are invited to attend their daughter's treatment plan meetings, and supervised weekly visits are permitted onsite for immediate family members.

A variety of life skills are targeted for development. Academic skills are addressed in onsite education. Classes have no more than 14 students. Each girl works at her own pace. Curriculum includes women's history and cultural programming. Recreational activities include aerobics, basketball, and field trips.

ARC contracts with vocational and technical schools to provide girls with twice-weekly career training in a variety of fields (including both female-dominated fields such as cosmetology and non-traditional fields such as auto repair). In addition, an onsite culinary arts program teaches job skills and offers certification.

The program encourages development of positive interpersonal skills. Positive relationships are modeled and nurtured by staff. Girls are encouraged to form positive relationships with staff members and with one another. Girls are also encouraged to help their peers make decisions that will keep them on the right track. If a participant violates a rule, the other participants are encouraged to attempt correcting her prior to involving a staff person. Specifically, ARC emphasizes the development of skills to enhance conflict resolution, parenting (for expectant teen mothers), assertiveness, decisionmaking, values clarification, and self-esteem. A program component called "Self-Awareness from Girl to Woman" promotes personal hygiene, emotional development, and self-acceptance of one's body. It gives girls a chance to explore female roles such as daughter, mother, and sister.

Treatment includes group and individual counseling to address issues such as victimization, substance abuse, and parenting. Because sexual abuse is one of the most prominent risk factors facing this population, ARC provides a specialized treatment component for survivors of rape and sexual and physical abuse. Offender treatment is provided for female sex offenders and abusers. Case management is supervised by a staff psychologist, and each girl also has a personal counselor with whom she generally has daily contact.

As girls progress through the program, they work with staff to plan for a smooth reintegration into the community. Three home/community visits are conducted. Specific aftercare plans depend on each girl's individual needs, but can range from community reintegration to foster care.

Return to Program Chart

Guiding Principles for Promising
Female Programming
October 1998