Transforming Children: The Nurtured Heart Approach

Agencies across the world, including foster care providers, have implemented a behavior management strategy aimed at transforming socially, academically and behaviorally challenged children. This technique, known as the Nurtured Heart Approach, is aimed at awakening the greatness in all children.

Originally created by Howard Glaser in 1992, the Nurtured Heart Approach was developed for working with intense children, including those diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and other behavioral, emotional and anxiety related disorders.

Intensity, according to the Nurtured Heart Approach, is a powerful quality that, if developed correctly, can help children excel.

“When a child learns to feel great about his or her intensity, the incidents of challenging behavior dissolve,” according to the training. “Now the intense child is using his or her intelligence and energies in constructive ways, and he or she often turns out to be an intensely gifted young person.”

The technique employs three stands, or guiding principles, that are aimed at transforming children. The first revolves around the refusal to give time and energy to negative behavior. For example, instead of focusing on what a child did wrong and yelling, the caregiver will save that energy for something good.

The second stand asks the caregiver to relentlessly pull the child into a new pattern of success by consistently recognizing their successes and achievements and put energy into praising them. For example, instead of spending time admonishing the child for misbehavior, the caregiver will praise the good things the child has done regardless of how small.

The last stand demands that the caregiver have clear and consistent consequences for children when a rule has been broken.

Utilizing these three stands and following the approach consistently will, according to the website, channel a child’s intensity in beautifully creative and constructive ways.

According to many, the approach has made a difference.

Two elementary schools in North Dakota said they saw behavioral referrals decrease 20 percent each year, including a 50 percent drop for students with learning disabilities, once they employed the Nurtured Heart Approach.

“They (the students) were very articulate and shared with me the skills they were learning, and they recognized the hero in themselves,” North Dakota Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Kirsten Baesler told the Jamestown Sun. “They were also giving of their skills to assist peers and classmates with identifying positive things and in helping other kids who were lonely.”

Foster care agencies have also reported vast improvement in the children and youth they serve. Focus on Youth, a foster care agency in Ohio, reported that during a 2-year period the number of broken placements were at a low while the usage of medication on youth dropped around 18 percent.

In New Jersey, the Nurtured Heart Approach reduced the rate of broken placements from 25 percent to 0 at the Drenk Center (now Legacy Treatment Services) during a four-year period.

Currently, Foster and Adoptive Family Services trainers are certified in the Nurtured Heart Approach. They have held mandatory training sessions with staff and are currently working with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) to determine how to best utilize this approach in the future.

To learn more about Nurtured Heart, click here.

To learn more about FAFS’ trainings, click here.

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