Reclaiming Youth International Carried Out Overseas to a Small Country Named Belgium

By Franky D'Oosterlinck, RYI
Posted on October 30, 2013, in Circle of Courage

A few weeks ago, in the beginning of May 2012, Dr. Nicholas Long and his wife Jody honored our organization, the OOBC Nieuwe Vaart in Ghent, with a special visit. Dr. Long told us about his life work, Life Space Crisis Intervention. He told about how Fritz Redl, who was his teacher, travelled from Europe to the United States and brought with him the contents and the spirit he believed in to work with the most troubling youths at that time. The visit and the story of Nicholas Long were very inspiring for us, and aligns closely to what we believe in for the children and the families with whom we work.

 It was 12 years ago that LSCI came back to Europe, with one of the authors of this article (Franky D’Oosterlinck) being trained by Mark Freado in an event provided by Reclaiming Youth International in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Soon after that, the first LSCI training in Europe took place. Life Space Crisis Intervention and more broadly, the tradition of Reclaiming Youth International, is a stream of values and contents that fits very well with who we are and what we believe in. By now, over 10 years after the first LSCI training in Belgium, we can proudly say that in Flanders, there are over 3000 people trained in LSCI and using this method in their daily work and there are 3 big research projects on LSCI. There are already 5 LSCI trainers in Belgium and there are 6 more to be certified this fall. In the meanwhile, the OOBC Nieuwe Vaart has become a National Training Site of LSCI. In 2008, EFeCT was founded. EFeCT is the European Federation of Conflict Management in Treatment in Education and Care, which includes all European countries where LSCI is used participate in a network that gathers annually on common interests and contents that are effective for working with troubled and troubling children, youth, and families.

 Using LSCI in our daily practice with troubled and troubling kids and their families made us consider how to formulate the values we believe in. We came to understand that it is important to know, believe and live up to those values. Knowing the work and the tradition of Reclaiming Youth International, we believed that our colleagues in Flanders could become inspired by the concept and ideas of the Circle of Courage and more specifically the belief that children and youth do well when their needs of belonging, mastery, independence and generosity are met. That is why Mark Freado was invited in May 2010 to come to Ruiselede to present to an audience that included a combination of the staff of De Zande, one of Flanders’ secure juvenile detention institutions and the staff of the OOBC Nieuwe Vaart, a day care treatment center for children with emotional and behavioral disorders, on the Circle of Courage. The audience learned about the universal needs, the Re-ED principles (Hobbs), and Bronfenbrenner’s concept of social ecology. By then, people in Belgium already were aware of methods such as Developmental Audit and RAP that are offered by Reclaiming Youth International. People quickly became interested in getting to know more about these ideas and methods because the applicability and the good ‘fit’ with methods like LSCI seemed to promise a new strength-based “wind” to blow in the work with often difficult kids.

 After Freado’s presentation, people went to work with the Circle of Courage in their teams. We experienced that the Circle of Courage perfectly fits in the stream of our vision. Specifically for our center, OOBC Nieuwe Vaart, we can apply it our own internal staff meetings, in which we tried to make the Circle of Courage “our own”. The team especially saw the possible advantages of using the Circle of Courage not only for the work with the kids and their families, but also for our own team work and for the coaching of staff members in their professional attitude and skills in working with the kids. This is why we started working with the Circle of Courage in a creative and flexible way.

 Using LSCI quite profoundly in several institutions in Flanders, we noticed the frequent questions of people of colleagues about how to coach the skills of group workers approaching and talking with kids with emotional and behavioral problems. Recognizing the need of learning how to coach and supervise team members in using LSCI, we worked-out a two-day-training concerning the fundamental values of LSCI and coaching. We believe LSCI fundamentally concerns four important values:

1, it is all about relationships;2, wondering; 3, looking at other persons with competency in a well-grounded way, we work in a creative way on the challenges of problem-solving; 4, we are outcome-based.

These four elements, which we tend to call our “LSCI-values”, are surrounded by supervision values. We outlined four important ones: safety, competence, power and willingness. After that, we structured the LSCI values and the supervision values in our own circle, we call it the “Circle of Coaching”. We believe that the process of the staff member talking to the child, should be parallel to the process of the supervisor working with the staff member in the coaching conversation. This means that these four questions are in both relationships (group worker-kid and supervisor-group worker) and it is important to find answers to the following:

  1. “Do you feel safe enough to build on the relationship?”
  2. “Is there enough competence to approach reality with a wondering attitude?”  
  3. “Is there enough power to come to creative, new solutions?”
  4. “Are you willing to take the challenge?”


To start a coaching conversation, we experience it is useful to answer these four key questions, from both the perspective of the supervisor as well as from the perspective of the group worker, who has been talking to the kid.

 Proudly, we state that we experience the usefulness of the Circle of Courage and the Circle of Coaching in our work with the kids and their families. The result is the improvement of the work of the teams that take care o these people in their daily work.

 But, off course, we still had more questions, e.g. how to work further with kids for whom it seems that every perspective is lost, e.g. because some terrible things have happened and no one seems to be able to build on the relationship with this kid? In our meetings with Mark Freado, we discussed this need. That is how the organization of the first Belgian Developmental Audit training happened in March 2012. We gathered a group of about 25 interested people, representing different facilities from different sectors such as education, residential care, child psychiatry, and others. Analyzing the evaluation forms, again, we conclude that also in Belgium professionals agreed that this is a useful tool to help these kids gain perspective in their lives.

 In November 2012 we plan to organize the first Belgian training in Response Ability Pathways (RAP), another application of the Circle of Courage, in which there is focused on strengths.

 We believe that using the Reclaiming Youth International contents, we can have an influence on the way people think about children and youth who display difficult behavior. We think Belgium is ready for these strength-based perspectives and to experience the advantages of working like this every day in our work with these kids. Thanks to the collaboration we find in EFeCT, our European network of countries working with these kids, we feel that the opportunities for providing these approaches is far more widespread in Europe than only in our country. Reclaiming Youth International has indeed made its influence known across international borders!

About Franky D'Oosterlinck

Nieuve Vaart; Academic Consultant, Dept. of Orthopedagogics, Ghent University; Chairman of the "European Fed. of Conflict Management & Treatment in Education & Care' EFECT; Ghent, Belguim Read Franky D'Oosterlinck’s Bio

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