Starting A KLM Program

NOTE: The following information is also contained in the Prefaceof the KLM Administrator's Guide.

Initial Questions
The first step in setting up a Kids Like Me! program is to answer the following questions:

Target Audience?
Who do you want to reach with your program? Are you targeting:

  • COA/As (Children of Alcoholics/Addicts) only?
  • Children of the parents in your recovery ministry, no matter what their recovery issues might be?
  • High stress families in general?
  • Children in your church only? Children in the community only? Both?
  • Families who have attended Confident Kids groups in the past?

Your answer to this question will affect how you organize, publicize, staff, and train leaders for your program.

Closed or Open Group?
One of the biggest differences between the Confident Kids program and Kids Like Me! is the issue of closed versus open groups. The difference is:

Closed Groups. Closed groups are those in which families must register their children into the group for a specified period of time and make a commitment to attend consistently. No new children are added after the first or second week of the current session.

Advantages: In closed groups, each session builds on the material presented in the session before, making it possible to present the material in a comprehensive way. Since no new children are added to the group, the trust level deepens over the course of the unit. Also, since children are registered into the program, the number of children in the groups at any one time is easily controlled, assuring that the facilitator:child ratio is strictly maintained. (In Confident Kids groups, this ratio is 1:4.)

Disadvantages: The main disadvantage is that families must wait to join a group until a new unit begins, which may take up to several months. This is difficult when a family wanting to join the group is facing a crisis and they are very much in need of the support now.

Open Groups. Open groups are those in which children may come at any time, with no need to register in advance.

Advantages. The most obvious advantage is that the support group is immediately available to children, and the family does not have to make a commitment for an extended period of time. In open groups, the curriculum topic changes each week so even those who come sporadically are able to benefit from the session.

Disadvantages. It is more difficult to build trust in a group when children are not committed for a specified time. Each time a new child enters the group the trust level changes. It is also hard to maintain the proper facilitator:child ratio when it is not known how many children will show up each week.
The Kids Like Me! program was written in an open group format. This makes it more responsive to the needs of recovery ministries that want to provide a children’s program every week for whoever may show up that night. However, it would certainly be an effective closed group, too. The question of whether to offer the program as an open or closed group is left to the discretion of the program administrators running each program.

This issue is a vital one to discuss before you begin your program. Here again, your answer will affect how you organize, publicize, staff, and train leaders for your program.

Chain of Command?
If a problem arises in your group, who is responsible to solve it? Who else needs to be informed? Working with this population of children/families may raise problems that need to be dealt with, such as reporting abusive behavior. In that eventuality, all program staff need to know what procedures they are to follow to handle it appropriately. Don’t wait until something happens to deal with this issue! Clarify the chain of command that is required by your church before you begin a Kids Like Me! program.

A recommended chain of command is as follows:

Program facilitators report to the
Kids Like Me! Administrator, who reports to a:
Church Pastoral Staff Member over the KLM program (i.e., a Recovery Pastor, Church Counselor, Children’s Pastor), who reports to the :
Senior Pastor/Church Board

Be sure to have your church’s chain of command in writing and clearly communicate it to all program staff. The important issue is that all program leaders have a clear procedure for handling sensitive problems that may arise.


Leadership Recruitment and Training

Perhaps the most difficult part of any on-going children's program is finding and maintaining qualified leadership. Many churches are concerned that beginning a support group for children will be a further drain on their already over-tapped leadership pool. However, experience has taught us that a support group program for children often attracts new leaders. Follow these guidelines as you recruit:

Leadership Characteristics and Commitments:
Successful KLM leaders exhibit the following characteristics:

  • A deep love for children.
  • A high degree of responsibility and dependability.
  • A special concern for hurting children.
  • Although not required, leaders who have personally experienced living in a family with an alcoholic or addicted parent, or other painful childhood issues, tend to have a level of understanding and sensitivity that is helpful in the Kids Like Me! program.
  • Although not required, some past experience in working with children in group or class settings is also helpful.

In addition, successful leaders must be committed to the following three principles:

  • Consistency of Physical and Emotional Presence. Leaders must be totally committed to being there each week, both physically and emotionally. This is crucial when working with children who have been hurt by trusted adults in their lives.
  • Being nonjudgmental. Leaders must realize that children may reveal family secrets or behave in ways that go against their own personal value system. Although leaders do not have to condone these issues, they must realize that unconditional love and acceptance is important to the healing process.
  • Respecting confidentiality. Kids Like Me! leaders must realize they will be called upon to use wisdom and discretion as children reveal details of their lives. In most cases, they must be able to keep what children say in the group setting confidential, with a few notable exceptions. See Handling Sensitive Issues (below) for more information on this vital subject.


The Leadership Team:

The Program Administrator. This person is the overseer of the entire program. Ideally, this is a paid staff member or someone with easy access to the administrative resources of the organization (i.e., office equipment, publicity vehicles, scheduling and room allocations, knowledge of potential volunteers, etc.). The responsibilities of the Program Administrator include:
  • Coordinating with the supervising Pastoral Staff Member and other Recovery Ministry Leaders to set the time and place for the meetings.
  • Recruiting, training and caring for the program facilitators.
  • Publicity.
  • Maintaining records.
  • Securing all needed supplies.
  • Evaluation and follow-up.

Program Facilitators. The facilitators work directly with the children. One facilitator for every four to five children is needed. Following the KLM curriculum, these facilitators conduct the meetings each week.

Training:

Stage One: Orientation. The first step in the training process is a “no-obligation” orientation. This gives both the potential leaders and the program administrator a chance to explore whether or not this ministry will be a good match for both. This meeting generally is conducted as follows:

  • Get acquainted. Participants share their backgrounds and why they are interested in the Kids Like Me! program.
  • Overview of Kids Like Me!. Includes program goals, qualifications of leaders, and a look at the curriculum and meeting format.
  • Details of the Facilitator Commitment. Expectations and the importance of follow through once a commitment is made are discussed.
  • Distribute Facilitator Applications. Appendix C contains a sample application. For legal reasons, it is important to have an application on file for every facilitator. Participants can fill them out at home and return them before the next training, should they decide to continue.

Stage Two: Basic Training. Once the applications have been reviewed and the team chosen, the basic training can begin. Kids Like Me! facilitators are trained in the following areas:

  • A complete review of the KLM curriculum. This includes both the content of the lessons and how the session components (best accomplished by having trainees participate in a mock KLM session).
  • Children of Addictions Issues. Characteristics of COAs, Family Roles, and other related issues are discussed (see Appendix E) .
  • Small group facilitation. Skills are taught in listening and responding, keeping the group on track, recognizing behaviors that indicate a need for professional help, and your church or organization’s policy for handling sensitive issues.
  • Classroom management. This includes how to maintain discipline and control, provide smooth transitions between program segments, and the importance of well-prepared session plans.
  • Team building. Facilitators work together to plan sessions, discipline consistently, solve problems, and pray. Having some of your meetings over dinner can also help build the team.

Stage Three: On-the-Job Training. Training does not stop once the Basic Training is completed. Additional training experiences are needed as follows:

  • De-briefing Sessions. Debrief each of the sessions as soon as possible. We recommend a short meeting for this purpose after each session. If this is too late in the evening, gather half an hour before each session begins. If that is not possible either, schedule a debriefing meeting at a convenient time at least every two weeks. Use this time to share what has been happening in the groups, celebrate successes, solve problems, plan for future meetings, and pray.
  • Enrichment Sessions. Approximately once each quarter, hold a special training session to focus on an issue of concern. This could be a further discussion of discipline methods, additional information on one of the life skills contained in the curriculum (i.e., an in-depth look at anger management), or a special speaker to address an issue of concern (i.e., a local educator to talk about Learning Disabilities, an addiction specialist to discuss methodology for working with children of addiction, or a representative from Children’s Services to discuss signs of and proper reporting procedures of abuse).
  • Team Building Events. Plan times just to relax and have fun together! Quarterly pot luck dinners or game nights will do a lot to increase the bonding of your team. And remember, the more bonded your team is, the more successful your Kids Like Me! program will be – guaranteed.


Handling Sensitive Issues

Confidentiality

Written Policy. Most of the time, sharing in KLM groups is straightforward and predictable. However, from time to time children or parents may reveal matters of a sensitive nature. Decisions about how these matters will be handled must be made before you begin the program so you will be prepared, should a problem arise in your program. Many churches now have church-wide written policies for procedure in handling sensitive issues. If your church does NOT have written policies regarding reporting abuse, chain of command, etc., encourage the church leadership to do so before beginning a KLM program.

Confidentiality Agreement with the Kids. Confidentiality is one of the most important rules on the group rules list. Facilitators explain it to the children by saying that KLM is meant to be a safe place where they can talk about whatever they want to talk about. But, in order to feel safe everyone needs to know that what they say in group will stay in group. Facilitators further explain this to mean that when they leave the group, they may not tell anyone else about personal, private things another child has shared. They can, however, talk about whatever else they want. The kids will also be told that the confidentiality agreement extends to the facilitators. The facilitators will not tell anyone what the kids share with them without their permission, and this includes their parents. We cannot be helpful to the kids if they fear we will turn around and talk to their parents about everything they say in the group.

Children’s Understanding of Confidentiality. The distinction between what is okay to talk about outside the group and what is to be kept confidential is very blurred at the elementary age level. Be prepared for children to tell their parents that they were told they could not tell Mom or Dad anything that happened in the group. If you receive phone calls from parents about this issue, explain the importance of confidentiality to the group process, and then add the information in the following paragraph.

Confidentiality Agreement with the Parents. Explain to parents that although we respect and hold to the confidentiality agreement with the kids, program administrators will always find a way to get information that is of concern to them. This is usually not difficult to do. Most often when we ask the kids if we can talk to their parents about a particular issue, they are very happy to have us do so; some are even relieved. Even when they do not give us permission, we can usually find a way to get information to parents without violating confidentiality; such as making observations about their behavior. Parents can be assured that it is not our intent to hide things from them; but to make it as easy as possible for their kids to receive help.

Exceptions to Confidentiality. There are two exceptions to confidentiality:

  • Reports of abusive behaviors. Any reports of abusive behavior against the kids will – by law in most states – be reported to authorities.
  • Confidentiality among KLM program leaders. If we are to give the families the best possible experience, facilitators must be free to share information about what happens in the groups each week. They can then be given guidance as to the best way to deal with the issues their group members raised. This sharing also allows the Program Administrator to note any information that seems out of the ordinary and needs follow-up.
Referrals
When families have problems that go beyond the scope of the support group program, they will need to be referred to other sources for help. If your church does not have an approved list of counselors and/or agencies, build one of your own. Include resources such as the following on your list:
  • Counselors and counseling agencies that include one or more counselors who specialize in working with child and/or family therapy; AND include a sliding scale fee structure.
  • Lawyers and legal aid services to assist parents with legal issues.
  • Community resources for specialized issues such as chemical dependency treatment, ADD diagnosis and treatment, shelters for women and children, etc.
  • Local meetings of AA, Al-Anon, and other 12 step groups.
  • Other helping professionals for issues common to families in your community.

Reporting Abuse
In most states, church workers are required by law to report statements of abuse, or suspected abuse. Be sure the entire program staff knows in advance signs of abuse and the proper procedures for making reports. You may consider inviting a social worker or representative from Child Protective Services to train your staff in this area.

Preventing Legal Problems
It is not likely that your church will encounter any legal difficulties from your KLM program. However, you can safeguard against this possibility by giving attention to the following three issues:

Have parents sign a release form. The purpose of this form is to make it clear to parents that they are attending a support group – not a therapy group. Most courts will
  • recognize that support groups are peer led groups, and do not fall into the same legal liabilities as professionally led therapy groups. A sample parent release form is included in Appendix C.
  • Know when and how to report abusive behaviors. Never act alone in reporting abuse. This decision should be made in consultation with the child’s facilitator, the KLM Program Administrator, and any other pastors/counselors acting as supervisors to your program. The main point to emphasize here is the need for all leaders to know the proper procedure to follow in your church or organization before the issue actually comes up. Don’t wait until you are in a crisis situation to stipulate this procedure!
Screen your KLM facilitators carefully. This is an important responsibility of the Program Administrator. The screening process begins with carefully reviewing the applications filled out by potential facilitators.