By Ted Wachtel
Oranjehuis (“Orange House,” in English) is a Belgian agency that uses restorative practices, from its residential drug and alcohol treatment program to its organic farm project and other day programs for young people and their families.
Founded in 1974, Oranjehuis independently developed counseling strategies similar to Community Service Foundation and Buxmont Academy. But after its senior leadership visited CSF Buxmont in 2004, it began using the term “restorative practices” to describe its underlying approach.
The agency established an organization, Ligand, to train its own staff in restorative practices, as well as schools and other youth-serving agencies across Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium.
Most recently Oranjehuis developed a project called the “Columbus Program,” to reduce waiting lists for youth and family counseling services in cities across Flanders. While waiting for assistance, families often saw their problems get worse. A more timely intervention would likely have prevented escalation.
Beginning with a pilot region in 2010, Columbus has now been implemented in communities across Flanders.
Quoting from the website:
“Columbus focuses on communication and connection. Everyone’s story and perception of the situation is listened to and exchanged with each other to work together to find solutions. We are confident that each family can make a contribution in this quest.
“Columbus supports the entire process and its follow-up. As a family finds the strength to address obstacles and difficulties inherent to tackling life itself, we adjust our intervention.”
Each solution consists of:
- Speaking, really listening, and deciding together
- Taking responsibility (everyone has a stake in the development and addressing a problem)
- Making (common) positive movement
- Existential answers to existential questions
Rather than relying on the perceptions of a therapist or expert, the Columbus program engages families in finding their own solutions. Columbus is involved for a maximum period of 4 months. Some families may need other services, but the timely intervention by Columbus helps them cope until those services become available. Most do not need more services and many families do not even need to be involved for the full four months.