Wraparound Service and Positive Behavior Support

    What is Wraparound?

    Wraparound is a philosophy of care with defined planning process used to build constructive relationships and support networks among students and youth with emotional or behavioral disabilities (EBD) and their families. It is community based, culturally relevant, individualized, strength based, and family centered. Wraparound plans are comprehensive and address multiple life domains across home, school, and community, including living environment; basic needs; safety; and social, emotional, educational, spiritual, and cultural needs. Another defining feature of wraparound is that it is unconditional; if interventions are not achieving the outcomes desired by the team, the team regroups to rethink the configuration of supports, services, and interventions to ensure success in natural home, school, and community settings. In other words, students do not fail, but plans can fail. Rather than forcing a student to fit into existing program structures, wraparound is based on the belief that services and supports should be flexibly arranged to meet the unique needs of the students and their families.

    Wraparound distinguishes itself from traditional service delivery in special education and mental health with its focus on connecting families, schools, and community partners in effective problem-solving relationships. Unique implementation features include (a) family and youth voice guide the design and actions of the team; (b) team composition and strategies reflect unique youth and family strengths and needs; (c) the team establishes the commitment and capacity to design and implement a comprehensive plan over time; and (d) the plan addresses outcomes across home, school, and community through one synchronized plan.

    Although on the surface wraparound can be seen as similar to the typical special education or mental health treatment planning process, it actually goes much further as it dedicates considerable effort on building constructive relationships and support networks among the youth and his or her family (Burchard, Bruns, & Burchard, 2002; Eber, 2005). This is accomplished by establishing a unique team with each student and the student's family that is invested in achieving agreed-on quality-of-life indicators. Following a response to intervention (RTI) model in which problem-solving methods become more refined for smaller numbers of students, these more intensive techniques for engagement and team development are needed to ensure that a cohesive wraparound team and plan are formed.

    The concept of wraparound has been operationalized in numerous forms (Bruns, Suter, Force, & Burchard, 2005; Burchard et al., 2002; Burns & Goldman, 1999; Miles, Bruns, Osher, Walker, & National Wraparound Initiative Advisory Group, 2006). In fact, the absence of an established theoretical framework has contributed to the lack of consistency regarding procedural guidelines for wraparound (J. S. Walker & Schutte, 2004). Arguably, the two theories that are most compatible with wraparound are ecological systems theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1979) and environmental ecology theory (Munger, 1998). Both theories stress the influence of various systems (e.g., schools, health care, etc.) on the level of functioning for children and their families. Two related theories reflect the family-centered (Allen & Petr, 1998), strengths-based approach (Saleebey, 2001) of wraparound. The consistent underlying philosophy of wraparound is a change from "expert-driven" models as it places the family, not a mental health agency or the school, in the leadership role within the team process. Furthermore, the wraparound process emphasizes that services are identified and designed based on the needs of the families and youth rather than what the system has available and is experienced with providing. The ultimate goal is success for the youth within the context of their families and their home schools. These characteristics are what make wraparound a unique, family and community-based process that is often experienced as antithetical to traditional mental health treatment planning or IEP procedures (Burchard et al., 2002). The spirit of wraparound and its elements were summarized by Burns and Goldman (1999) with 10 guiding principles:

    1. Strength-based family leadership.
    2. Team based.
    3. Flexible funding/services.
    4. Individualized.
    5. Perseverance.
    6. Outcome focused.
    7. Community based.
    8. Culturally competent.
    9. Natural supports.
    10. Collaborative.

    Procedure and components

    A key component in the wraparound process is the development of a rich and deep strength profile that identifies very explicit strengths across settings (e.g., home, school, community) and life domains (i.e., social, cultural, basic living skills, academics, etc.). Big needs in wraparound can be defined as follows:

    • The needs are big enough that it will take a while to achieve, such as "James needs to feel respected at school."
    • There is more than one way to meet it; for example, "Hector needs to feel competent/able about learning" instead of "Hector will complete his assignments."
    • The need will motivate the family to want to participate on the team. For instance, Maria's mother needs to feel confident that Maria will get treated fairly at school
    • If met, the need will improve quality of life for the youth or those engaged with the youth on a regular basis (e.g., the family, the teacher).

    The wraparound process includes specific steps to establish ownership, and therefore investment, of people who spend the most time with the student (i.e., family, teacher). This creates an environment in which a range of interventions, including behavioral supports, are more likely to be executed with integrity. For example, a wraparound team may solicit involvement from the community to assist a family with accessing stable housing and other basic living supports as parents may be better able to focus on a home-based behavior change plan for their child if stress about being evicted from an apartment is alleviated. Other examples include teams facilitating transportation, recreation opportunities, and social supports. Teams can also tailor supports for teachers who may be challenged with meeting the unique needs of a student. For example, a plan to change problem behavior at school may be more likely to succeed if the teacher has a trusted colleague of choice who models the instruction of the replacement behavior or how to naturally deliver the reinforcement in the context of the classroom.

    The wraparound process delineates specific roles for team members, including natural support persons (Eber, 2003), and detailed conditions for interventions, including specifying roles each person will play in specific circumstances. The role of a designated team facilitator is critical to ensure the process is adhered to and that the principles of the strength-based person-/family-centered approach are held fast. The wraparound facilitator, often a school social worker, counselor, or school psychologist, guides the team through the phases of wraparound, ensuring a commitment to "remain at the table," despite challenges and setbacks, until the needs of the youth and family are met and can be sustained without the wraparound team.

    Phase I: Engagement and Team Preparation

    During Phase I, the facilitator works closely with the family, student, and teacher to build trust and ownership of the process.

    The first step is to reach out to the family and arrange a time and place to have an "initial conversation" with them to hear their story and begin the process of building a relationship and a team.

    The family is encouraged to tell "their story" by articulating their perception of the strengths, needs, and experiences of their child and family. This initial contact should be a low-key conversational discourse with the goals of:
    (a) developing a trusting relationship,
    (b) establishing an understanding of the process and what they can expect, and
    (c) seeking information about potential team members, strengths, and big needs.

    Phase II: Initial Plan Development

    During Phase II, the facilitator moves from engagement and assessing strengths and needs with the family and other potential team members to guiding the team through the initial wraparound meetings. This shift into team meetings needs to occur as quickly as possible, typically within 2 weeks from the initial Phase I conversations. Baseline data reflecting youth, family, and teacher perception of strengths and needs are shared and used to guide team consensus on and commitment to quality-of-life indicators (the big needs). During Phase II, facilitators share the strengths and needs data with the team. Needs are prioritized, and action planning begins as the facilitator guides team members to brainstorm strategies to increase strengths and meet needs. As strategies are developed, tasks and roles for all team members are clarified. A safety plan for school or home is developed if team members feel this to be an imminent need.

    Phase III: Ongoing Plan Implementation and Refinement

    During Phase III, data-based progress monitoring is used to review initial plans and revise interventions in response to ongoing efforts. The facilitator ensures a regular meeting schedule for the team and continuous data collection and review of results so that data informs the team when things are/not working, thus sustaining objectivity among team members.

    Phase IV: Transition from Wraparound

    The final phase of the wraparound process marks the formal point of transition when frequent/regular meetings are not needed. During this phase, accomplishments are reviewed and celebrated, and a transition plan is developed. The family may elect at this stage to share their experience with other families who are currently participating in the wraparound process.

    Wraparound and SWPBIS

    It is useful to broaden this framework and view the secondary and tertiary tiers of SWPBIS as a continuum of interventions that progress through a "scaling up" of supports with a broader range of delineated steps or stages. The following figure depicts the Tier 2 to Tier 3 continuum, moving (a) small-group interventions, to (b) a small-group intervention with a unique feature for an individual student (i.e., a unique reinforcement schedule), to (c) an individualized function-based behavior support plan for a student (typically focused on one specific problem behavior), to (d) behavior support plans that cross settings (i.e., home and school), to (e) more complex and comprehensive (wraparound) plans that address multiple life domains (i.e., safety, basic needs, behavioral, emotional, medical cultural, etc) across home, school, and community.

    Wraparound can be integrated into school-based planning for students with special needs, regardless of special education label or agency involvement. Bringing families, friends, and other natural support persons together with teachers, behavior specialists, and other professionals involved with the student and family can be done for students at the first indication of need (Scott & Eber, 2003). The wraparound approach is a critical part of the SWPBIS system as it offers a means for schools to succeed with the 1–2% of students whose needs have become so complex that starting with an FBA/BIP process for one selected problem behavior is not efficient, effective, or enough to improve quality-of-life issues for all those affected.

    The benefits that SWPBIS offer to the highest level of support on the continuum (wraparound) include experience with a problem-solving approach and using data to guide decisions. Also, full implementation of SWPBIS at the universal level provides a solid base of lower-level interventions (e.g., Tier 1 and Tier 2 supports) to build on and more effective and supportive environments in which to implement wraparound plans. Within a three-tier system of behavioral support, students who need tertiary-level supports also have access to and can benefit from universal and secondary supports. Each level of support in SWPBIS is "in addition to" the previous level. In other words, no student only needs wraparound as the wraparound plan, with its multiple life-domain and multiple-perspective focus, often makes the Tier 1 and Tier 2 supports available in the school effective for the student.


    Allen, R. I., & Petr, C. G. (1998). Rethinking family-centered practice. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 68, 196–204.

    Brofenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Bruns, E. J., Suter, J. C., Force, M. M., & Burchard, J. D. (2005). Adherence to wraparound principles and association with outcomes. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 14, 521–534.

    Burchard, J. D., Bruns, E. J., & Burchard, S. N. (2002). The wraparound approach. In B. Burns & K. Hoagwood (Eds.), Community treatment for youth: Evidence-based interventions for severe emotional and behavioral disorders. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Burns, B. J., & Goldman, S. K. (Eds.). (1999). Promising practices in wraparound for children with serious emotional disturbance and their families. Systems of Care: Promising Practices in Children's Mental Health, 1998 Series (Vol. 4). Washington, DC: Center for Effective Collaboration and Practice, American Institutes for Research.

    Eber, L. (2003). The art and science of wraparound: Completing the continuum of schoolwide behavioral support. Bloomington, IN: Forum on Education at Indiana University.

    Miles, P., Bruns, E. J., Osher, T. W., Walker, J. S., & National Wraparound Initiative Advisory Group. (2006). The wraparound process user's guide: A handbook for families. Portland, OR: National Wraparound Initiative, Research and Training Center on Family Support and Children's Mental Health, Portland State University.

    Munger, R. L. (1998). The ecology of troubled children. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Press.

    Saleebey, D. (2001). The strengths perspective in social work practice (2nd ed.). New York: Longman.

    Scott, T., & Eber, L. (2003). Functional assessment and wraparound as systemic school processes: Primary, secondary, and tertiary systems examples. Journal of Positive Behavior Supports, 5, 131–143.

    Walker, J. S., & Schutte, K. M. (2004). Practice and process in wraparound teamwork.Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 12, 182–192.

    The wraparound cotent is extracted from 'Chapter 27: Completing the Continuum of Schoolwide Positive Behavior Support: Wraparound as a Tertiary-Level Intervention' by Eber, L., Hyde, K., Rose, J., Breen, K., McDonald, D., & Lewandowski, H. (in press) in W. Sailor, G. Dunlap, G. Sugai, R. Horner, (Eds.) Handbook of Positive Behavior Supports & 'Wraparound: Description and Case Example' by Eber, L. (2005) in George Sugai & Rob Horner (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Behavior Modification and Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Educational Applications, (pp. 1601-1605).


    Tier 3/Tertiary Series Training Resource Guide from Illinois PBIS

    This training resource guide provides: 1) training course materials, 2) initial & advanced training activities, 3) evaluation tools, 4) wraparound, 5) team development and action planning strategies, 6) crisis planning, and 7) team planning tools for tertiary level support.

    Functional assessment and wraparound as systemic school processes: Primary, secondary, and tertiary systems examples

    This article proposes a framework for expanding the traditional presentation of wraparound and FBA to (a) view wraparound and FBA as concepts that are inextricably linked at the core of each level of the proactive systemic process of PBS and (b) understand how wraparound and FBA are critical features of prevention as well as intervention for creating safer schools for all students.

    Four Phases of Wraparound Implementation

    This document provides a description of what steps are involved in the Four Phases of Wraparound Implementation.

    Intensive Level PBIS: Integrating Wraparound Approaches in PBIS Schools

    This is a powerpoint presentation that is a 2-Day training for schools implementing School-Wide PBIS. The goals of the training are to: proivide Understand about key features of wraparound value base and process, have participants Gain experience with components of the wraparound process, and Learn to apply data-based decision-making, self-assessment and monitoring procedures to ensure effectiveness of practices.

    Illinois Statewide Technical Assistance Center (ISTAC) Systematic Information Management for Educational Outcomes (SIMEO) Youth Satisfaction Tool (YS-T)

    This survey is intended to reflect youth’s experience with a previous team (if any) such as a special education IEP team.

    Illinois Statewide Technical Assistance Center (ISTAC) Individual Student Evaluation System (ISES) Wraparound Integrity Tool (WIT)

    This is a tool that describes activities involved in Phases I through IV of the Wraparound intervention.

    Illinois Statewide Technical Assistance Center (ISTAC) Systematic Information Management for Educational Outcomes (SIMEO) Home, School, Community Tool (HSC-T)

    This is a questionnaire in which a teacher, parent/caregiver, and youth's facilitator complete in order measure a student's needs and/or strengths.

    Illinois Statewide Technical Assistance Center (ISTAC) Systematic Information Management for Educational Outcomes (SIMEO) Family/Caregiver Satisfaction Tool (FS-T)

    This is a checklist in which parent's/caregiver's rate their experience in working with teams (i.e., IEP Team).

    Illinois Statewide Technical Assistance Center (ISTAC) Systematic Information Management for Educational Outcomes (SIMEO) Educational Information Tool (EI-T)

    This is a questionnaire in which a teacher rates a student's classroom functioning and his/her academic performance.

    Illinois Statewide Technical Assistance Center (ISTAC) Systematic Information Management for Educational Outcomes (SIMEO) Big Behavior Tool (BB-T)

    This is a checklist which reflects the caregiver/facilitator/team's rating of a student's externalized, internalized and expressive behavior.

    Initial Training Activities for Core Elements of Wraparound from Illinois PBIS - PBIS Intensive Level: Integrating Wraparound in Schools

    This is a training manual which provides information on how to integrate Wraparound Approaches in PBIS Schools.

    School-Based Wraparound for Students with Emotional and Behavioral Challenges

    Describes a process, wraparound planning, for extending educational services to students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) and their families. A merger of community and school-based wraparound is being implemented in pilot school districts in Illinois. Guidelines for implementing school-based wraparound for students with EBD are provided and implications for school organization are drawn.

    Description of Wraparound and Case Example

    The newsletter article provides research base, relevant target population, case example, and suggested readings for wraparound service.