The TIER System

A Trauma Informed Effective Reinforcement System for Residential Facilities

The TIER System is a research-based, female responsive, and trauma-informed alternative to compliance-focused behavior management systems in detention and residential settings.

The Tier SystemThe TIER System reduces staff focus on traditional compliance methods and teaches skills to redirect unsafe and unhealthy behavior. The System teaches skills that are more effective in motivating positive behavior than traditional points and level systems.  The key principle of the TIER System is creating and maintaining a safe program culture, which is an empowering paradigm in which many residents can learn helpful life skills and improve conditions of safety in facilities.

Program models that are trauma-informed operationalize principles of trauma-informed care by creating program environments, practices, and programs that intentionally include safety, respect and dignity at every level. In the TIER System, personal and program safety is developed by reinforcing positive, safe behaviors by applying innovative practices that are relational, trauma informed, and strengths-based.  Negative, destructive behaviors are diminished through supportive techniques that teach girls the necessary skills to manage their own challenging feelings, thoughts and attitudes.  The TIER System is not built on teaching compliance; it is built upon teaching residents meaningful skills so they may individually contribute toward a safe environment.

The TIER System has customized versions to work with girls, women and boys. 

Behavior Motivation Components 

  • Myself – My Relationships – My Community
  • Personal Coach
  • Daily Program Responsibilities
  • Daily Responsibility Review
  • Community “Theme of the Day” & Social Issues Sunday
  • Addressing Challenging Behaviors
  • Rewarding Positive Choices
  • Supporting Residents Who Are Struggling With Program Responsibilities
  • Temporary Removal from the Community

Community Assembling 

  • Morning/Evening Community Gatherings
  • Community Support Gathering
  • Greeting Gathering
  • Farewell Gathering
  • Community Improvement Gathering

Implementation and Quality Assurance 

  • Implementation Process
  • Internal Quality Assurance
  • External Quality Assurance


The TIER System was co authored by Tammy Rothschild and Kimberly Selvaggi. For more information about the TIER System contact the authors at or (860) 306-9521

Stephanie S. Covington, Ph.D., L.C.S.W.  • 7946 Ivanhoe Avenue, Suite 201B, La Jolla, CA 92037  •  858.454.8528  •  858.454.8598 (Fax)