I had the opportunity to train the 2017 material at the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department recently and wanted to share what for me was a truly inspiring event. My sincere thanks to Nicole Collier and Moe Hobson for sharing this story.
Harris Co Juvenile Probation serves a large population of youth ranging in ages from 10 to 17. The population includes youth with a history of violent offenses. Their data indicates that many of the youth have mental health issues, issues of poverty and gang related activity.

It was not surprising that when The Mandt System© was first introduced into the Harris County Juvenile Probation system, there was reluctance on the part of the staff to shift from a more control based system and “buy in” to what is a support based program. There was concern that this system would not provide the same level of protection during serious incidents. There was considerable concern and skepticism expressed by the instructors who were being certified in the new system. They raised issues they knew would come up during the training they were to perform. Change is always hard, but particularly when staff perceive themselves and the youth in their care to be at risk of harm.

When I trained at the site this year, my class included a significant number of instructors who were recertifying. I was initially struck during the introductions when time and again, in addition to providing personal information, the “recerts” provided testimony about how they found the new system had worked positively with the youth in their care. The experience can be summed up by one story that was shared.

Several of the officers were involved in breaking up an altercation between two of the youth in care. In addition to the philosophy of treating everyone with respect and dignity, physical intervention was necessary, resulting in the use of a restraint. When the altercation was resolved, the officers spent time “de-briefing” with the youth, explaining what they observed and why it was necessary to intervene the way they had. One youth responded to the information saying, “I understand all that. What I want to know is why you came in and gave me a hug?”

It is phenomenal that what could have been perceived as an aggressive act on the part of the staff was instead perceived by the youth as a “hug”. This is an indication to me that the physical skill was used with fidelity to the intent taught, a temporary measure to protect everyone from harm using the least amount of interaction necessary for safety. It was inspiring to experience the shift in the culture of the staff. Their attitude and enthusiasm set the positive tone for the first-time instructors who were in the class.

Aaryce Hayes – Mandt Faculty