According to the data of 2000/2001 of all Estonian minors who have committed criminal or administrative offence there were 184 children studying at residential care institutional schools. Kaagvere Special School is a closed institution for girls who have been sentenced by court to continue their education at special school. Students arrive to the special school throughout the year. After the period spent in special school most of the girls return to their previous circumstances.
The primary goal of this survey is to observe and appraise the psychiatric characteristics and problems of the girls, and to compare these with the according characteristics of regular school students of the same age. Also a special training program was worked out and adjusted for the rehabilitation of delinquent girls.
This survey involved 28 Kaagvere Special School students aged 14-16. Besides 6 pedagogues involved in work with the girls were interviewed and every class teacher filled the Achenbach tests. To get the evaluation data 91 children from Tartu regular schools filled the trauma symptoms inquiry.
- The Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children (TSCC)
- Achenbach test (that estimates the affective and behavioral disorders of children)
- Coping test COPE
Special school girls perform several symptoms that reflect of having been abused or neglected. Compared to the control group of common school students the girls of special school who took part in survey performed exceedingly both externalized (like social problems, deviating behavior, anger), and internalized symptoms (including anxiety, withdrawal, somatic complaints). Hyperactivity, academic difficulties, deficiency in self-control and concentration difficulties may well be the consequence of abuse.
It became evident that some of the respondents had been sexualized by their environment or had experienced sexual abuse.
Special School students exposed more frequently the signs of immediate dissociation, that could in turn be caused by one or another kind of psychological trauma.
They tend to use ineffective coping strategies i.e. they were less problem-orientated and are inclined to use avoiding coping strategy.
Interviews with teachers showed that girls have little contacts both with their parents other support persons, which refers to neglect. Children came from families with one parent, divorced families or from a family with stepparent.
The aim of psycho-educational support group was to deal with delinquent behavior as well as with previous negative experiences. Developing social skills of children was focused at. Likewise all the participants could experience emotional support of the group.
Program consisted 11 sessions that were distributed to 6 months.
The program had a behavioral orientation, and included a cognitive factor.
Techniques: modeling, imaginary and role plays, relaxation, training of directing one’s anger, expressive and art therapy techniques.
Group Work Objectives
- Providing emotional support.
- Analysis of abuse related experiences.
- Recognizing emotions and learning how to respond.
- Learning social skills/capacities. .
- Providing information, developing values.
- Possible ways how to comfort oneself and ease tension.
- Making realistic plans for future.
Notions on intervention strategies of group training and structure.
- Special school children need more time to build trust.
- Motivating has to be a continuous process.
- Participants are later evaluated as experts.
- Structuring work helps.
- Nonverbal language has to be translated to verbal language.
- Artistic/creative works have a significant role in group training.
- Session as to be planned in a flexible way.
- Drawing attention even to small achievements is helpful.
- Topics must be handled recurrently.
- Humor, excitement, playfulness are of help in creating a positive group atmosphere.
Remarks on trainers:
- It might be of help to observe one’s personal emotional responses and discuss these with the colleagues or supervisor.
- It might be useful to have a plan how to respond to violent behavior.
- One should not have to high expectations.
- Having two group leaders would help to conduct the actual work.
- Nevertheless some drawbacks might occur.
Program evaluation by participants
- Students appreciated mutual emotional support, understanding, trust and friendly relationships that were established in the group.
- Children appreciated the opportunity to express the thoughts and feelings that they have in connection with their homes, abuse and parents.
- Girls acquired a better and deeper understanding of themselves.
Tartu Child Support Center
Kaunase pst.11-2, Tartu 50704, ESTONIA