Admissions with a Family-Centered Focus

February 6, 2023

The prospect of attending a new school is challenging for any child but for a child with special needs, whether visiting for the first time or transferring from another program, it can induce deep anxiety, apprehension, and even refusal. It’s not an easy process for a family, either.

When a family is first introduced to Green Chimneys, the path to necessary clinical and academic support has likely been an arduous journey. From the first diagnosis to navigating resources to identifying the right place for their child, parents are asking themselves: What will my child think? How will they feel? Who will be there for them?

Touring and meeting staff

Green Chimneys opens the door to a new beginning that starts with a first meeting and campus tour. Kim D’Agnese shares that their initial visit to Green Chimneys was notably different from other programs they had experienced with their daughter, Bella. “The tour was fantastic; we were there for three hours! Bella was very nervous, we all were, but our nerves were quickly calmed,” shares Kim. “We walked all over campus and we met everybody—the woodworking teacher, the woman who works with the animals, even the chef in the dining hall. We weren’t just sitting in a room being told about what would be provided for our child.”

Our Admissions Team works closely with families to identify the needs of each prospective student and assess the appropriateness of our therapeutic day school and residential programs.

Finding the right school with clinical support

The D’Agnese family was seeking a new school program where 15-year-old Bella could find a peer group, make more friends, and gain the coping skills she needs to manage her anxiety. Bella is a friendly yet shy student who wants an environment where she can feel at ease and make strong connections with teens who are similar to her. Finding a school that would be the right fit was a top priority for the whole family and Green Chimneys quickly emerged as the right one for Bella. Following the family’s diligent application and enrollment process, the day of admission had finally come. “A student’s admission day can be overwhelming for the child and family, in so many ways,” states Admissions Director Lara Signorini. “Our focus remains on how we can best support students and families by facilitating a smooth transition from the moment they step onto campus.”

The first day

A student’s day of admission typically entails meeting the nursing and psychiatric team; lunch at the dining hall; orientation with residential and clinical staff at the student’s assigned dorm; and the opportunity to unpack and decorate the student’s new room. “Bella and her family arrived early, providing them some time to walk around the farm, which always has a nice, calming effect,” Lara recalls. “It also happened that Bella’s dorm supervisor was able to join the family at lunch so it was a wonderful, informal way to ease everyone into the day.”

Settling in and feeling assured

The weeks that followed confirmed that Bella and her family had made the right choice. During the first week, Kim joined Bella for dinner on campus and she exclaimed “Mom, guess what? I love this school, I rate it a ten out of ten!” Hearing this was music to Kim’s ears. “It was the first I had seen her smile in about three years,” says Kim. “She’s got that spark back in her eyes.”

And the D’Agnese family appreciates the experience they’re having, as well. “Her teacher and her social worker, they’re awesome,” says Bella’s dad, Anthony. “They listen, they’re involved…there’s so much communication.”

Kim says of the comfort level that Bella has easily found, “I think it’s a combination of the people she’s met, staff who are so caring and down-to-earth; all the animals; and the very laid back, calm, casual setting. I love this school but more importantly, SHE loves it!”

How our nature-based program can help to welcome prospective families to Green Chimneys:

It starts at Admissions but then extends each time the family meets a staff member and becomes more familiar with the team and our philosophy of care. The farm and animals are part of that because intuitively families recognize that a school that also nurtures vulnerable animals is deeply committed to caring for all.

Animals and nature help to put people at ease, allowing personalities or preferences to emerge, and lead to meaningful conversations that help determine if Green Chimneys is the right next step. “We can tell so much by how a new family and child approach animals,” says Farm & Wildlife Director Michael Kaufmann. “Some are reluctant to get close to a horse; others have no hesitation in petting a goat. We can observe if a child listens to their parents while walking in the barn, if they follow instructions from the tour guide if they are unwilling to communicate at all.”

These first subtle observations lay the foundation for an individualized approach to each placement at Green Chimneys. Such customization informs the treatment and education plans that will guide the student, family, and treatment team.

Get to know Green Chimneys…

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