Wraparound Service and Positive Behavior Support 

What is Wraparound?

Wraparound is a philosophy of care with defined planning process used to build constructive relationships and support networks among students and youth with emotional or behavioral disabilities (EBD) and their families. It is community based, culturally relevant, individualized, strength based, and family centered. Wraparound plans are comprehensive and address multiple life domains across home, school, and community, including living environment; basic needs; safety; and social, emotional, educational, spiritual, and cultural needs. Another defining feature of wraparound is that it is unconditional; if interventions are not achieving the outcomes desired by the team, the team regroups to rethink the configuration of supports, services, and interventions to ensure success in natural home, school, and community settings. In other words, students do not fail, but plans can fail. Rather than forcing a student to fit into existing program structures, wraparound is based on the belief that services and supports should be flexibly arranged to meet the unique needs of the students and their families.

Wraparound distinguishes itself from traditional service delivery in special education and mental health with its focus on connecting families, schools, and community partners in effective problem solving relationships. Unique implementation features include (a) family and youth voice guide the design and actions of the team; (b) team composition and strategies reflect unique youth and family strengths and needs; (c) the team establishes the commitment and capacity to design and implement a comprehensive plan over time; and (d) the plan addresses outcomes across home, school, and community through one synchronized plan.

Although on the surface wraparound can be seen as similar to the typical special education or mental health treatment planning process, it actually goes much further as it dedicates considerable effort on building constructive relationships and support networks among the youth and his or her family (Burchard, Bruns, & Burchard, 2002; Eber, 2005). This is accomplished by establishing a unique team with each student and the student’s family that is invested in achieving agreed-on quality-of-life indicators. Following a response to intervention (RTI) model in which problem-solving methods become more refined for smaller numbers of students, these more intensive techniques for engagement and team development are needed to ensure that a cohesive wraparound team and plan are formed.

The concept of wraparound has been operationalized in numerous forms (Bruns, Suter, Force, & Burchard, 2005; Burchard et al., 2002; Burns & Goldman, 1999; Miles, Bruns, Osher, Walker, & National Wraparound Initiative Advisory Group, 2006). In fact, the absence of an established theoretical framework has contributed to the lack of consistency regarding procedural guidelines for wraparound (J. S. Walker & Schutte, 2004). Arguably, the two theories that are most compatible with wraparound are ecological systems theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1979) and environmental ecology theory (Munger, 1998). Both theories stress the influence of various systems (e.g., schools, health care, etc.) on the level of functioning for children and their families. Two related theories reflect the family-centered (Allen & Petr, 1998), strengths-based approach (Saleebey, 2001) of wraparound. The consistent underlying philosophy of wraparound is a change from “expert-driven” models as it places the family, not a mental health agency or the school, in the leadership role within the team process. Furthermore, the wraparound process emphasizes that services are identified and designed based on the needs of the families and youth rather than what the system has available and is experienced with providing. The ultimate goal is success for the youth within the context of their families and their home schools. These characteristics are what make wraparound a unique, family and community-based process that is often experienced as antithetical to traditional mental health treatment planning or IEP procedures (Burchard et al., 2002). The spirit of wraparound and its elements were summarized by Burns and Goldman (1999) with 10 guiding principles:

  1. Strength-based family leadership.
  2. Team based.
  3. Flexible funding/services.
  4. Individualized.
  5. Perseverance.
  6. Outcome focused.
  7. Community based.
  8. Culturally competent.
  9. Natural supports.
  10. Collaborative.

Procedure and components

A key component in the wraparound process is the development of a rich and deep strength profile that identifies very explicit strengths across settings (e.g., home, school, community) and life domains (i.e., social, cultural, basic living skills, academics, etc.). Big needs in wraparound can be defined as follows:

  • The needs are big enough that it will take a while to achieve, such as “James needs to feel respected at school.”
  • There is more than one way to meet it; for example, “Hector needs to feel competent/able about learning” instead of “Hector will complete his assignments.”
  • The need will motivate the family to want to participate on the team. For instance, Maria’s mother needs to feel confident that Maria will get treated fairly at school
  • If met, the need will improve quality of life for the youth or those engaged with the youth on a regular basis (e.g., the family, the teacher).

The wraparound process includes specific steps to establish ownership, and therefore investment, of people who spend the most time with the student (i.e., family, teacher). This creates an environment in which a range of interventions, including behavioral supports, are more likely to be executed with integrity. For example, a wraparound team may solicit involvement from the community to assist a family with accessing stable housing and other basic living supports as parents may be better able to focus on a home-based behavior change plan for their child if stress about being evicted from an apartment is alleviated. Other examples include teams facilitating transportation, recreation opportunities, and social supports. Teams can also tailor supports for teachers who may be challenged with meeting the unique needs of a student. For example, a plan to change problem behavior at school may be more likely to succeed if the teacher has a trusted colleague of choice who models the instruction of the replacement behavior or how to naturally deliver the reinforcement in the context of the classroom.

The wraparound process delineates specific roles for team members, including natural support persons (Eber, 2003), and detailed conditions for interventions, including specifying roles each person will play in specific circumstances. The role of a designated team facilitator is critical to ensure the process is adhered to and that the principles of the strength-based person-/family-centered approach are held fast. The wraparound facilitator, often a school social worker, counselor, or school psychologist, guides the team through the phases of wraparound, ensuring a commitment to “remain at the table,” despite challenges and setbacks, until the needs of the youth and family are met and can be sustained without the wraparound team.

Phase I: Engagement and Team Preparation

During Phase I, the facilitator works closely with the family, student, and teacher to build trust and ownership of the process.

The first step is to reach out to the family and arrange a time and place to have an “initial conversation” with them to hear their story and begin the process of building a relationship and a team.

The family is encouraged to tell “their story” by articulating their perception of the strengths, needs, and experiences of their child and family. This initial contact should be a low-key conversational discourse with the goals of:

(a) developing a trusting relationship, 

(b) establishing an understanding of the process and what they can expect, and 

(c) seeking information about potential team members, strengths, and big needs.

Phase II: Initial Plan Development

During Phase II, the facilitator moves from engagement and assessing strengths and needs with the family and other potential team members to guiding the team through the initial wraparound meetings. This shift into team meetings needs to occur as quickly as possible, typically within 2 weeks from the initial Phase I conversations. Baseline data reflecting youth, family, and teacher perception of strengths and needs are shared and used to guide team consensus on and commitment to quality-of-life indicators (the big needs). During Phase II, facilitators share the strengths and needs data with the team. Needs are prioritized, and action planning begins as the facilitator guides team members to brainstorm strategies to increase strengths and meet needs. As strategies are developed, tasks and roles for all team members are clarified. A safety plan for school or home is developed if team members feel this to be an imminent need.

Phase III: Ongoing Plan Implementation and Refinement

During Phase III, data-based progress monitoring is used to review initial plans and revise interventions in response to ongoing efforts. The facilitator ensures a regular meeting schedule for the team and continuous data collection and review of results so that data informs the team when things are/not working, thus sustaining objectivity among team members.

Phase IV: Transition From Wraparound

The final phase of the wraparound process marks the formal point of transition when frequent/regular meetings are not needed. During this phase, accomplishments are reviewed and celebrated, and a transition plan is developed. The family may elect at this stage to share their experience with other families who are currently participating in the wraparound process.

Wraparound and SW-PBS

It is useful to broaden this framework and view the secondary and tertiary tiers of SW-PBS as a continuum of interventions that progress through a “scaling up” of supports with a broader range of delineated steps or stages. The following figure depicts the secondary-to-tertiary continuum, moving (a) small-group interventions, to (b) a small-group intervention with a unique feature for an individual student (i.e., a unique reinforcement schedule), to (c) an individualized function-based behavior support plan for a student (typically focused on one specific problem behavior), to (d) behavior support plans that cross settings (i.e., home and school), to (e) more complex and comprehensive (wraparound) plans that address multiple life domains (i.e., safety, basic needs, behavioral, emotional, medical cultural, etc) across home, school, and community.

Wraparound can be integrated into school-based planning for students with special needs, regardless of special education label or agency involvement. Bringing families, friends, and other natural support persons together with teachers, behavior specialists, and other professionals involved with the student and family can be done for students at the first indication of need (Scott & Eber, 2003). The wraparound approach is a critical part of the SW-PBS system as it offers a means for schools to succeed with the 1–2% of students whose needs have become so complex that starting with an FBA/BIP process for one selected problem behavior is not efficient, effective, or enough to improve quality-of-life issues for all those affected.

The benefits that SW-PBS offer to the highest level of support on the continuum (wraparound) include experience with a problem-solving approach and using data to guide decisions. Also, full implementation of SW-PBS at the universal level provides a solid base of lower-level interventions (e.g., primary and secondary) to build on and more effective and supportive environments in which to implement wraparound plans. Within a three-tier system of behavioral support, students who need tertiary-level supports also have access to and can benefit from universal and secondary supports. Each level of support in SW-PBS is “in addition to” the previous level. In other words, no student only needs wraparound as the wraparound plan, with its multiple life-domain and multiple-perspective focus, often makes the universal and secondary supports available in the school effective for the student.

Published by

:Kat: K. M. M.Ed

Author, Artist, Philosopher.

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