When a youth is referred to our program, we usually have to decide at what level we need to intervene. Is this going to involve a couple of interviews, or will this be a long-term residential placement? Not only do we make an accurate decision as to what is needed; we must choose a course between “too little" and “too much".
A useful analogy is that of finding yourself swimming at the beach when a youngster near you gets into difficulties in the strong current. You have three choices in deciding the level at which you wish to help him:
Level 1. Take his hand and draw him back to shallow water. When his feet touch the ground he will regain his confidence and will have learned a lot from a scary experience. Then leave him, go on, and enjoy your swim ...
Level 2. Recognise his very specific learning need, and arrange to meet him at the nearest swimming pool for a few afternoons over the next two or three weeks to teach him to swim. Then let him get on with his life.
Level 3. Sweep him off to the penthouse suite at some smart hotel and keep him there in the lap of luxury for five years where he can be protected from the nasty currents and dangers of the sea!
Interventions at Level 1 happen spontaneously day by day in thousands of encounters between people. Intervention Level 2 is seen as the ideal model, certainly in our field of child and youth care, since it is short, purposeful, and leaves the child in touch with his own life. It is also an illustration of the maxim “if it ain't broke, don't fix it!” Level 3, exaggerated as it seems, is disturbingly near to many long-term over-servicing and over-indulgent treatment placements.