Villa Santa Maria, we understand our responsibility as being
one of building healthy relationships with children who do
not trust the care of others. This task begins with one fundamental
attitude towards children, "WE WILL
TAKE CARE OF YOU." This approach extends into every
aspect of the child's life here including the residential
milieu, school and in therapy.
Santa Maria is a therapeutic community where children learn
the fun and satisfaction inherent in healthy relationships
with adults. We create a living environment in which every
interaction that a child has with an adult is an opportunity
for change - where every interaction is a corrective emotional
experience. Children who do not trust the care of others are
taught through daily living that they will be taken care of.
This is accomplished with two rules…and hundreds of expectations.
first rule states, "We must know where you are at all times."
In order to keep children safe, we must always know where
they are. A child cannot be outside of an adult's eyesight
without explicit permission.
second rule states, "You have to ask for everything you need
or want." We help children learn that by verbalizing their
needs, they are more likely to have them met by an adult.
Self parentified behaviors, common in children with Reactive
Attachment Disorder (RAD), prevent children from learning
that their care is an adult's responsibility. This focus provides
continuous opportunities for children to discover that the
staff at the Villa consistently respond to the child's need
at the time.
these two rules, everything else is negotiable with the exception
of closeness. The essence of our treatment model is dependent
on the child's relationship with a person as opposed to his
or her ability to maneuver and manipulate to an artificial
system of points and levels. The limited rules also reinforce
to the child that the care giver is the most important tool
available to gain trust, independence and permission to participate
in the fun opportunities the are ongoing in the community.
Finally, limited rules discourage illogical and inconsistent
consequences to inappropriate behavior directing confrontations
to the genuine issues of feelings and trust.
average length of stay for children admitted to the Villa
is eighteen months. Our experience in working with children
suffering with attachment difficulties has taught us that
the child spends the first six months of treatment adjusting
to the new environment, new people and new expectations. Within
the second six months, children begin to trust the care and
control that our competent staff provides on a consistent
basis. It is within the final six months that most children
begin to internalize the trust of care and are more capable
of making healthy decisions for themselves.