When a family hires transporters, they should feel confident that the care their child receives is grounded in a model that accounts for traumatic stress, adolescent development, and protective factors. The Respectful Adolescent Transport Protocol™ (RAPT) involves two trained transporters who are aware of the client’s history, including their history of trauma, substance use/abuse, and mental health concerns. An essential element of this protocol is the constant involvement of parents and others in the family support system. Prior to the physical transport, our clinical team prepares the family with respect to what to say to their child about the transport process. This preparation includes a meeting with transporters, family, and other loved ones in order to outline the transport process and coach family on how to speak to their child about the transport. As part of this process, parents and family members are asked to write a letter to the young person being transported. The focus of this letter is two-fold. First, the letter emphasizes the family’s love for their child and their positive qualities, strengths, and resilience. Second, the letter further reinforces that the family has made this decision with their child’s best interest in mind and will not back down from their decision to seek treatment on their child’s behalf. This letter provides a solid foundation for the introduction of our transport service, emphasizing both the family’s love for their child and supporting the family in being accountable for their decision to engage treatment.
Transports are often done in conjunction with an intervention, but regardless of whether an intervention has occurred, our team works diligently with families to minimize the risk of traumatizing or re-traumatizing a young person. On a practical level, this means that we do not wake children in the middle of the night and escort them out of the home. This act alone is traumatic and unnecessary. Our protocol respects and supports the dignity of each child being transported and focuses on parental accountability, building rapport with the young person, and acknowledging their resistance and frustration in a trauma-informed way. In addition, the family is not asked to leave the home while the transporters are speaking with the child. The child’s potential responses are normalized and predicted for the parents. Safety and containment are always prioritized, and the child understands that this is the decision that has been made by the family. Having the family express their love and reasoning for their decision to send their child to treatment also supports the paradigm of healing and change for the entire family system and reduces abduction trauma.
Our transporters understand that trauma can contribute to a slew of behavioral traumatic adaptations and that these behaviors can include physical intimidation, verbal assaults, dissociative behavior, or overly compliant behaviors. How transporters respond to these behavioral adaptations is critical to a successful transport experience, as many adolescents are not excited about the idea of treatment. From a trauma-informed perspective, behaviors are not perceived as good or bad but simply as information. This information allows transporters to tailor their responses to the specific needs of each client.
From the outset, it is the responsibility of the transporter(s) to make the client feel safe. How is this accomplished? The first step involves building authentic relationships. This is achieved by setting clear, healthy boundaries with the client and engaging in resistance from a place of understanding.
In addition, transporters listen deeply to a client’s stories and show genuine curiosity about their lives. Transporters make it a priority to share information with clients about each step of their journey – what to pack, method of transportation (rental car, flight, etc.), who will be traveling, etc.
Transporters stay with a young person from the moment of introduction until they reach their final destination. Throughout their journey, transporters keep parents informed of their progress and provide updates regarding the emotional and physical well-being of their child. Our Respectful Adolescent Transport Process® underscores a young person’s right to be treated with dignity and respect, while still providing safe transport to treatment programs. In addition, our protocol embraces the following principles as essential to successful transportation of adolescents:
- A client’s safety and wellbeing are most important during any transport experience.
- Transporters are an important part of the client’s treatment team, and their actions should support the establishment of safety, relationship building, and mutuality.
- It is normal for clients to struggle in this process, and the job of the transporter is to ease fears, de-escalate crisis, and offer soothing communication and genuine concern.