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Draygon pushed family; now pushes for change

September 1, 2011

Draygon was pushing his luck, over and over. After one too many arguments at home, suspensions from school and run-ins with the authorities, his mom was ready to turn anywhere for help. The family was referred to Youth Villages’ Multisystemic Therapy program, a program that delivers counseling where families need help most: in their own homes, neighborhoods and their children’s schools.

The family had worked with counselors before. They were leery of another counselor coming into their home.

“I was scared of where Draygon was headed,” his mom, Tawnya, said. “I wanted to see a future for my son and a change for our entire family.”

But when the family met Chantal Stepney, their Youth Villages counselor, their worries faded away.

“We loved her from the start,” Tawnya said. “She wasn’t judgmental. She was here to help our family, no matter what.”

That’s the moment the family embarked on a challenging, often grueling six-month journey toward change. They started by reducing friction and arguments at home.

“We agreed not to yell at each other,” Tawnya said. “We agreed to pull Draygon aside and talk to him calmly as soon as we’d notice him getting upset.”

Chantal helped the family develop a behavior chart with a set of rewards and consequences. Draygon signed a behavior contract, agreeing to abide by the rules and to accept the consequences if he didn’t.

The relationship between Draygon and his stepdad, Chuck, also improved. Part of Draygon’s reward was spending time with Chuck and doing things they both enjoyed together.

“We started to really talk,” Chuck said. “And we noticed how much of a difference it made for Draygon to know that we would be consistent as parents.”

Chantal and Tawnya shared behavior plans with Draygon’s teachers and school officials, and the teachers agreed to update mom every time Draygon was having a bad day.

“She taught me a lot,” Draygon said about Chantal. “She taught me how to think before I act and to consider the consequences. I don’t get into trouble as much. She made my life better.”

Draygon recently got called to the principal’s office at school. But this call was not about another suspension. Impressed by Draygon’s good behavior in school, his principal invited him to his office to chat over a cup of hot chocolate and Oreos.

Their Youth Villages counselor is no longer there, but the family sometimes revisits the work they did with Chantal.

“We slipped once and then had a family meeting and got our workbook back out,” Tawnya said. “We have to keep working at it.”

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