5712 Iroquois Avenue, Harborcreek, PA 16421
P: (814) 899-7664   ·   F: (814) 899-3075

The Sanctuary Model® | Harborcreek Youth Services

In 2005, Harborcreek Youth Services implemented changes in its residential program to become a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility as a part of the State Integrated Children’s Services Program. In 2006, our agency achieved accreditation from the international Council on Accreditation (COA), and we've currently earned accreditation three more times. Over the years since then, our agency has worked tirelessly to positively transform our agency from the inside out.

Sanctuary Model Banner - Harborcreek Youth Services

We have identified the Sanctuary Model as a tool for system change. This model has been identified as a promising practice by the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare has provided team training on the model to 29 Commonwealth providers, including HYS, through the Andrus Children’s Center Sanctuary Leadership Development Institute.

The Sanctuary Model®, developed by Sandra Bloom, M.D. in the 1980s, is a trauma-informed method for creating or changing organizational culture. Although the model is based on trauma theory, its tenets are applicable to work with children across a wide diagnostic spectrum. The Sanctuary Model is based on 25 years of practice in therapeutic communities and incorporates perspectives from trauma, systems, recovery and business theories.

Because the Sanctuary Model is a cultural model rather than a treatment intervention, Harborcreek Youth Services maintains its structures and guidelines for our clients, as well as consequences, incentives, individual and group therapy services, and all the requirements of the Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ) program.

The Sanctuary Model is the way we organize our treatment and the way we run our organization. We call Sanctuary an everybody model because it is a way of guiding leaders, staff, clients and families to share the same values and language. Sanctuary is a guide to the way we provide healing to children and to those that care for them. It is, first and foremost, a guide for creating a safe and non-violent environment for our clients and our staff.

The Sanctuary Model is based on seven shared values or commitments:

  • Nonviolence: Being safe physically, emotionally, socially and morally
  • Emotional Intelligence: Managing our feelings so we don’t hurt ourselves or others
  • Social Learning: Respecting and sharing the ideas of our teams
  • Shared Governance: Shared decision-making
  • Open Communication: Saying what we mean and not being mean when we say it
  • Social Responsibility: Together we accomplish more. Everyone makes a contribution to the organizational culture
  • Growth and Change: Creating hope for our clients and ourselves.

In addition, the Sanctuary Model is guided by four steps to healing, as embodied in the acronym SELF:

S = Safety. No one can be healed or work well without safety, which includes physical, emotional, social and moral safety

E = Emotions. Managing emotions helps us know what we are feeling and to handle our feelings so we don’t hurt ourselves or others

L = Loss. We recognize the need to find a safe way to acknowledge and grieve the painful things that have happened to us and to move on to a healthy future

F = Future. Managed to make positive choices to create a better future for ourselves and for the world.

A Core Steering Committee began meeting in March 2008. One of the committee’s first tasks was to establish a Sanctuary implementation timetable with target dates for reaching goals. Implementation activities included:

  • Completing Sanctuary training for all staff
  • Permeating our orientation trainings with Sanctuary principles
  • Encouraging all clients and staff to create personal safety plans
  • Implementing community meetings and SELF groups throughout the agency
  • Increasing family involvement
  • Implementing psycho-educational groups using the new curriculum.

In May 2011, Harborcreek Youth Services received official notification of attaining Sanctuary Certification. The certification letter issued by the Andrus Children's Center reads in part:

"On behalf of The Sanctuary Institute, we are pleased to inform you that Harborcreek Youth Services has satisfied the requirements for Sanctuary Certification. You are only one of a handful of agencies to be awarded this distinction, which reflects an agency-wide commitment to the creation of a non-violent, therapeutic culture. Through the certification process, you have demonstrated your provision of safe, compassionate, and high-quality trauma informed care for your children and families; as well as the creation of an organizational culture committed to open communication, non-violence, social responsibility, growth and change, shared governance, social learning and emotional intelligence."

Sanctuary Certification Letter >>