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DECA Success Stories

DECA receives success stories from all over the Nation about how our resources, training and advocacy efforts are making a difference in the lives of children, families and communities. Take a moment to read about what others are saying about the DECA Program.

Do you have a story to tell? Tell us how the DECA Program has helped you.
PNC Grant, Testimonials from Chester County Head Start Teachers

Classroom #1: “Prior to using the DECA Program in my classroom, I had children who fought over toys, knocked over other’s creations, and pushed children out of a center because they wanted to be there. I saw temper tantrums, biting, and a lot of tears. The children were unhappy and the teacher was a little stressed. It was not a pleasant situation. Then the DECA Program came along and I took the time to look at the environment of the classroom, my daily activities, and my involvement with the families of the children in my class. I saw many shortcomings that needed to be addressed. So I began to make some changes with my DECA Program Classroom Strategies guide in hand. I made changes in the way the room was set-up, the way we transitioned, and the amount of time I took to get to know the children and families. As I made these seemingly small changes, I saw miracles take place right before my eyes. A simple masking tape line on the outer edge of the block center acted as a protective barrier for the children playing in the center and the creations they were working on. A common piece of poster board with four symbols on it became the key to determining whether or not a child could enter a center to play. A piece of cardboard with three Velcro pieces and the words “1st, 2nd, 3rd” solved all the fighting over whose turn it was on the computer. These simple techniques were key to an emotionally safe environment for the children. They were all preventative measures that could be taught to the children in the first few weeks of school. Now I look around the room and see children problem-solving, taking turns, and helping and respecting one another. The days of chaos are gone and I believe the work we do with the DECA Program is invaluable in the social emotional development of our children. ABC’s and 123’s are important, but a child’s ability to be resilient will be the foundation for their social and emotional stability as they move throughout life.”

Classroom #2: “One boy in my morning class is a whole new student already. I used DECA Program suggestions to curb his self-control issues. He had strong attachment and initiative, so I capitalized on that. He is now a model Head Start student and learning much more effectively to be full prepared for kindergarten. Sadly, he is moving to a new classroom soon, but I know that he can do well because of the resilience he has gained here.”

Classroom #3: “It was wonderful to look at the DECA from last year for one of the children… WOW- what a change in the child from all concerns at the beginning of last year to all typical scores this year!”

Classroom #4: “Many of the parents in my classroom reported seeing positive changes in their homes at our November conferences this year. The DECA Program provides our Head Start parents with simple strategies to build on existing family strengths. It supports our belief that parents are the most important educators a child will ever have.”

Submitted by Anonymous:
In Bristol, we are spreading the word on DECA- by getting community professionals interested in the program, along with other community representatives. Last month I did a presentation to a High School Psychology Class about protective factors and how important these are to help children/people succeed in life. I then touched on the assessment tool- and how by answering these 37 simple questions a teacher/parent can help their child build protective factors. They thought it was "cool". We were also very lucky to have a presentation on the DECA-C - we are very excited about this- and we are looking to have our mental health consultants and those at "Level B"- to be able to use this tool- to enhance what we are already doing in our community. At the end of this month- the Bristol Team is presenting at the New England Association for the Education of Young Children on how the DECA Program has impacted our community.

Our ability to receive funds from the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund- for the second year- has allowed us the opportunity to continue with our work. We are also working with Dr. Walter Gilliam- a researcher from Yale to analyze our data - not only on social emotional issues- but on the quality of early care and education and how school readiness is working in Bristol, CT.

Submitted by Dr. Eileen Fluney-Perez is the Executive Director for Paradise Christian School, Hialeah, Florida:
At Paradise Christian School we are eagerly facing the new school year and the many successes and challenges to come! We have put a lot of thought into what we could do this year to really get the “DECA craze” going on. Last year we had a great monthly bulletin board with families helping and becoming aware of their children’s emotional need. Families were even trying to build up their own socio-emotional need by “filling their own cups”. To get us focused again on protective factors for this coming school year, the teachers “pretended” they were children, and rated themselves on the DECA! They asked themselves, how resilient are we? How can we improve not just our classrooms, our children, our families, our community, but ourselves! The teachers were so excited and learned so much about themselves and how to create a support system for their own socio-emotional development and needs. Now that our program has discovered how to “fill our own cups”, we can better meet the needs of our classroom, our children and our families.

Submitted by Swan:
"I use the DECA instrument in my Head Start classroom in Gainesville. It has helped me better serve my students and to realize my flaws as a teacher. It helped me see what I could do to improve my classroom. It also made me realize that there are more options that we as teachers can use to better serve the children and their families. I really enjoyed using the DECA Program, and as a result, I am now a family partner. DECA made me want to go to the next level in helping our families as a whole."

Submitted by Deanne J.: "Last night we had a Care for Kids meeting where many members of the community were gathered. Devereux and the DECA Program came up in a small, yet influential group of individuals. I am proud to be a part of what is going to have a HUGE community impact!"

Submitted by Mary M.:
"The DECA Program really seems to be taking off in Michigan. The state is intent on school readiness, and the DECA Program ties so nicely with many of the initiatives. I am an early childhood mental health consultant for state-wide prevention and expulsion programs in childcare. I have gone to each of our eight programs to do an overview of the DECA Program. It is amazing how this program taps into the interest of every discipline... infant mental health, EarlyOn, occupational therapy, domestic violence, prevention, etc. People really seem to be looking for that Universal idea. I also find the tool helps take away some of the mental health "stigma"- it is friendly!"

Submitted by Tammy Sanchez, Macomb County, Michigan Head Start Disabilities/Mental Health Coordinator:
We just received our response from the Department of Health and Human Services regarding our Head Start on-site monitoring review held last month. Noted in the summary of the review: "The DECA served as an effective tool to identify strengths and concerns regarding children's behavioral needs." We were very excited to "show off" the DECA Program and how it is incorporated program wide in our Head Start.

North Carolina:
Submitted by Melissa Gallimore, Counselor for Thompson Children’s Home:
At Thompson Child Development Center and Hope Haven Child Development Center, Charlotte, NC, we serve over 150 children from 6 weeks to preschool age. In our first year of DECA Program implementation, the first few steps ran smoothly, but we did come across some challenges on the way. I believe our challenges arise in presenting to the teachers the effects of what this program can do. In order to cross this barrier, we have asked a member of the Devereux Early Childhood training team to come to our site and not only present the DECA Program to Thompson and Hope Haven Child Development Centers, but also to our 25 Outreach centers located in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, and Union counties. This will enable not only our staff at TCDC and HHCDC, but also other sites to be informed of the importance of this program.

We are also looking at bringing in the adult resilience aspect of the program. After looking over the Caring for the Children, Caring for Yourself book (See Resource Corner for more info), it seems that starting with the adults to strengthen their Protective Factors would also help others to understand the importance in developing INITIATIVE in our children.

Submitted by:Jerry Strausbaugh, Appleseed Family and Youth
Ashland County Mental Health Recovery Board and Appleseed Community Mental Health Coalition are winding down a collaborative program that was funded through an Ohio Department of Mental Health grant to provide a consultant to classrooms in which teachers used the DECA. It has been met with a great deal of appreciation from the local preschool teaching community. The DECA combined with mental health consultation truly provides students and families opportunities to overcome and succeed!

Submitted by Riley P.:
"This is the third year that we have been using the DECA Program in some of our classrooms, both Head Start and Early Head Start. It has not replaced replaced the developmental screen (Dial in Head Start and ASQ in Early Head Start) or the ongoing Educational Assessment (Portage in both HS and EHS). We have been focusing on mental wellness and social competence for several years with in the program. The DECA Program has provided both an assessment instrument and a process to focus on positive social emotional development for individual children and the classroom as a whole. Several of the classroom staff have found that the classroom profiles are very helpful in planning for the entire classroom as a group. We are also finding that having a focus on positive social emotional development and resiliency has a positive impact on the number of challenges faced in the classroom due to children's behavior. It has also provided a inroad to discussing children's social emotional development with parents and jointly developing positive social-emotional goals for children. We are finding that using the DECA is having other impacts on the program. Our mental health observations in the classroom have always focused on helping staff enhance positive social emotional development. The form that we have been using overlaps with the information on the DECA Program Reflective Checklists. We have just revised our mental health observation form to more closely reflect this information. Our education managers are using the Reflective Checklists for some of the classroom observations they do on a regular basis. Most importantly, I see that as we use the DECA that there is an attitudinal shift from a focus on negative behaviors to positive behaviors. This shift means that many children who have the potential to become very challenging, instead do very well over the course of their time in Head Start!"

Daily News Article:
Over the last two years, there has been a big change in the typical school day at the Hillside Head Start program, said teacher Kathleen Cortlessa. Unruly children are better behaved. Shy children are more outgoing. There are fewer fights and more negotiations and respect. Full Story >>

Rhode Island:
Submitted by Marsha S.:
"We are implementing the DECA Program in family child care homes. So far, the providers have been very receptive of the idea as well as the parents. It is extremely helpful to the providers, and the quality of care shows immediate improvement once the assessments have been completed!"

Submitted by Janea G.
"We are new to the DECA tool. We have a small program of 117 children. We begin our program year in early September, when the teachers and home visitors go together as a team to family's homes. In between home visits, the teacher will use the DECA Program Reflective Checklists as a guide to setting up the learning environment. The home visitor has the parents complete the DECA while the teachers use the ESI-R. Then the children begin school later in September after they have been screened. The teachers do the observations (minimum of 2 per child) for the initial 4 weeks of school. We also have our mental health consultant visit the classroom during the observation time, she will meet with the teacher and home-visitor once during this time to discuss any high concerns. The teachers will next complete their DECAs on their classroom. I do all the ratings and scoring, then meet with the entire team to review the profiles. At this time we make our recommendations for which children may need further evaluations, referrals, or a Positive Behavior Guidance Plan. The teachers have conferences with the parents in November, when they review the DECA and ESI-R and develop an Individualized learning plan for all children. The home-visitors will be going back out in January to visit families, they will then provide the families with the DECA For Now and Forever parent books and review children's behavior plans. Since I have a staff that assist me with implementing IEPs, we have decided to support the guidance plans in the same manner. So far, things have been working well in our program and children are having their needs met."

Submitted by Ilene S.:
"I want to pass on a celebration. I have been promoting the DECA Program to groups throughout Snohomish County. I think it is the best thing to come along since flannel pajamas! The Success by 6 Initiative (a community collaboration based at United Way of Snohomish County) included funding for DECA Program kits and training for child care providers in a grant that was submitted to National United Way/Bank of America in November 2001. The three year Success by 6 Strategic Plan includes a track for provider tools, and the entire plan has a focus on social/emotional development. I hope that our work will inspire similar work at the State level!"

Submitted by: Snohomish County Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP)
Several years ago, United Way of Snohomish County received a planning grant from Bank of America as part of their Success By 6 Initiative. As recipients of this grant, our charge was to find out what was keeping young children in our community from getting to kindergarten healthy and ready to learn. In a nutshell, we found that more children were being identified with social and emotional problems in preschool, child-care programs and kindergarten than ever before, and that resources to support children, parents and teachers in this area were extremely limited.

After spending the next year creating a strategic plan to address this problem, we decided to focus on implementation of the DECA Program in ten child-care centers and homes. Year-One brought the challenges associated with using any new program, but still 32% of children showed significant improvement in initiative, 26% in self-control and 21% in attachment. As providers strengthen their skills for using the DECA assessment in educational planning, and in working with parents to strengthen skills at home, we expected each passing year to bring a deeper level of implementation.

The promising results from Year-One resulted in a second Success By 6 grant and a great deal of interest in the project from local school districts. In our second grant we will implement the DECA Program with over 300 children in Arlington School District. This pilot project will help us generate a long-term study that will demonstrate our outcomes on a larger scale, over time.

In addition to the Success By 6 project, Snohomish County Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) will be implementing the DECA Program with over 700 children, in the 2003-04 school year. ECEAP is in the third year of implementation, starting slowly with a one-site pilot, and then implementing in 20 programs with teachers learning to use the tool by working with 3 to 5 children, picked randomly. This has given the staff an opportunity to practice using the DECA Program without being overwhelmed.

Our dream is a statewide implementation that will raise the bar on providing much needed resources and support in the area of early social/emotional development and mental health. We can’t wait to find out what this will mean for the children and families in our State. Ilene Stark is an Education and Family Support Specialist for Snohomish County ECEAP and has participated on the United Way, Success By 6 Committee for three years.
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