Abraxas Youth Center (AYC) is located in South Mountain, Pennsylvania, on the secluded grounds of the state owned, South Mountain Restoration Center. AYC is a multi-service facility offering Specialized Treatment for Male Juvenile Firesetters and Sexual Offenders in a secure residential environment; Secure Residential Treatment for youth requiring that level of care; and Secure Detention and Shelter services.
With almost 20 years of experience treating youth involved in firesetting, we understand and can characterize the primary motivational factors behind juvenile firesetting. At AYC, we treat many of the co-morbid features of the juvenile firesetter effectively. When we ‘treat the whole person,’ the risk for recidivism can be significantly reduced. Thus, attention disorders, depression, conduct disorders, and other disorders are treated concurrently with specific firesetting issues. There is a growing body of clinical research on the underlying foundations out of which the most serious and pathological juvenile firesetters arise. These children frequently have developed with issues of early neglect and abuse. Healthy attachment processes are impeded as are the development of more functional self-regulatory abilities. With therapeutic work, the juvenile firesetter can develop more functional patterns and coping strategies. Juvenile firesetters often have experienced high levels of neglect, as well as abuse. Verbal, emotional, and physical abuse are common. The firesetting youth also exhibits a higher proportion of experiencing sexual abuse than other juveniles as well as victimizing others sexually. For this reason, sex offender treatment is also a part of the treatment milieu.
When attachments are damaged by abuse or children are over sexualized, they often fail to learn appropriate boundaries and fail to understand reciprocal relationships, and as a result can engage in inappropriate sexual behaviors resulting in adjudication. Often times these youth use sex to solve problems resulting in the need for individualized treatment plans and groups that target trauma recovery and offense specific treatment. In addition, evidence based curricula such as ART®, Botvin LifeSkills Training, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and Thinking for a Change assist with the formation of pro-social skills and attitudes.
Click and explore the links below to learn more about the program.
Phase I: Introduction, Disclosure of problematic behaviors and Fire Safety Training
Phase II: Critical Beginning Skills (Impulse Control and Affect Management)
Phase III: Critical Intermediate Skills (Criminal Personality Theory, Cognitive Distortions, Moral Reasoning, and Developing Empathy)
Phase IV: Critical Advanced Skills (Triggers and Cues, Victim Cycles, and Relapse Prevention)
Upon admission and prior to discharge, every youth receives a psychiatric evaluation. Various evidence and competency based curricula are utilized throughout the course of treatment.
Residents participate in daily group counseling and have individual sessions once a week with a counselor and bi-weekly sessions with a clinician. The program offers an individualized emphasis on trauma recovery and issues related to PTSD.
Phase I: Cognitive Distortions and Cyclical Patterns
Phase II: Empathy Development and Reintegration
Different firesetters require different treatment approaches; This is NOT a ‘ONE SIZE FITS ALL’ clinical population. The below listed juvenile firesetter typology can be used to help recognize behaviors and begin to identify treatment needs. Effective outcomes are even more frequent when we carefully match treatment intensity to the seriousness of the juvenile firesetter’s problems.
|Curious or Accidental||Younger children who do not understand the basics of fire such as it hurts, it spreads, etc.||Fire Safety Education, including their caretakers (when possible). Possible counseling/therapy to help the child deal with the impact of their fire when indicated.|
|Crisis/Cry for Help||Children who use firesetting as a method (however distorted) to manage or resolve a crisis situation. Either they do not know how to get help or have psychological impediments to getting help.||Fire Safety Education, social service and/or counseling/therapy to resolve the underlying crisis. Relapse prevention so that future crisis situations do not lead to firesetting recidivism.|
|Delinquent||Usually middle school aged, these children derive pleasure from their intent to be destructive and the anti-authority aspect of setting a fire. Usually set fire with peers||Implementation of legal and financial consequences. Education regarding other potential and realistic consequences. Balanced and Restorative Justice initiatives such as restitution, containment when safety needs to be ensured and possible highly structured residential care in more serious cases.|
|Revenge*||Children, usually teenagers, who use fire to obtain revenge. This is easy to ascertain when the revenge is direct but more difficult to discern when the target is random.||Consequences for setting the fire are necessary. Residential care is often necessary. Treatment should focus on down regulation of anger as well as exploration of other underlying emotions that magnify anger (fear, shame, hurt, etc).|
|Maladaptive Coping*||For these teenagers, firesetting becomes a solution to feelings of alienation, poor self-esteem, anxiety, and the like.||Residential care is frequently indicated. Work must focus on removing fire from being a solution to in-depth psychological problems. These problems will also require considerable clinical work.|
|Fire Fascination*||These teenagers have almost always had an interest in fire as youngsters and, as they develop, their interest in fire grows with them to become quite unhealthy. They psychologically ‘light up’ when seeing or thinking of fire.||Residential care is usually required. These teenagers need to be externally curtailed from stimulating their fire interest until they can quell this fascination internally. They require considerable clinical care.|
|Thrill Seeking*||These teenagers get equal enjoyment from their firesetting as they do from their attempts to elude being caught. Their firesetting usually rapidly progresses to become more and more serious.||Highly structured residential care is mandated to interrupt their progressive firesetting and to clinically deal with underlying issues.|
|Complex Firesetters*||These teenagers will have a combination of types of firesetting sub-types. They thus have an all too high psychological interest in firesetting and use fire to regulate themselves in complex ways.||Highly structured residential care with intensive clinical care is necessary.|
All residents attend school year-round at our private, licensed on-site school. We offer a full range of Special Education services. Many residents are able to make up education deficits (credit recovery) and progress more quickly than they have in the past. Core subjects include: English, Language Arts, History, Mathematics, Physical Education and Health, Science, and Life Skills. Smart Boards are used in every classroom and the on-site computer lab helps increase each resident’s computer skills. Residents are strongly encouraged to set and meet high academic standards. Additional tutoring is available from the teachers for those who need it. Students are rewarded for academic accomplishments and positive behavior. Both diploma and GED tracks are offered. PSAT and SAT testing is also available.
The program of study available at AYC is Culinary Arts in which they offer three levels of certification (Basic, Intermediate and Advanced). Training and certificates are offered in Microsoft Office; OSHA 10; ServSafe Food Handlers; ServSafe Allergens; CPR; First Aid; and Fire Safety.Download the PACTT Matrix
Involvement of immediate family members in each resident's treatment is encouraged and supported through several means. Family conferences are available bi-weekly and can be facilitated in person, through teleconference or utilizing secure video with master’s level clinicians. Families are invited and encouraged to attend an initial 30-day review, as well as each youth’s Quarterly Reviews to discuss progress and development of future goals. Family Workbooks (Forward Thinking: Family) are provided for youth to complete to help promote healthy communication and conflict resolution when working with his family in session. Residents also complete a Safety Plan and a Self-Care Plan with their family/guardian(s). As residents enter the final phase of treatment, day and home passes are encouraged for those eventually returning to the home environment. Each visit is structured to help the youth and the family find productive ways to help the transition be more successful for their return home. When available, support can be offered for transportation assistance in order to encourage visitation and family involvement.
Community service opportunities are provided for all residents. Opportunities exist in a number of settings, including at the program itself and when approved, several off-campus activities. Whether court ordered or simply as an opportunity to grow and invest in our communities, each resident will receive some participation in a community service event. These events are important measures for our youth to demonstrate growth and recognition of their potential impact on a community.
Restitution and payments for fines/court costs also can be earned for those assigned amounts owed through their placing jurisdiction. Payments are made by Abraxas and most often paid out at the end of programming when a resident discharges. Although some limited opportunities exist on-site for restitution, most often court approvals will be requested to take residents to projects specifically designed to assist in restitution activities.
Abraxas Youth Center offers both secure detention and shelter. Diagnostic evaluations are available through our shelter program. For information or to make a referral, please contact the facility directly at 717-749-3066
Abraxas Youth Center is a certified PREA Facility
Abraxas Youth Center has partnered with the Sanctuary Institute for clinical and organizational change
Abraxas Youth Center is affiliated with the Pennsylvania Academic Career/Technical Training Alliance
Abraxas Youth Center is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools