Group Homes have a bad name across the country and I agree that a shift staff run program that houses youth institutional style is not a good thing. However, the reality is that Group Homes are not all created equal. Many programs, like our Transitions Family Home Program, are run like a large family not an orphanage.
In a family style program, a live in couple or staff who is the surrogate parent oversees the program. At Youth Care & Beyond this couple is supported by 3 additional staff to provide appropriate staffing, transportation and support to meet all the youth’s treatment needs. It is important to us that youth also live in well-kept homes and neighborhoods. “We know today that children’s well-being does not depend only on genetics or their interactions with their parents, but also on their physical environments. And what could be more central to a child’s environment than her home: the place where she eats, sleeps, and plays every day? Housing conditions affect all children.” (Vandivere, S., Hair, E., et all)
A family style home also focuses on staff who take ownership for the youth in the program. These aren’t just youth, kids we know, or kids we work with. We see them as our kids. That kind of ownership requires investment and a promise to remain dedicated to helping him or her cross the finish line. We partner with parents, caseworkers, and attorneys to ensure a life that is healthy and good. It goes beyond just his or her stay in our program. We don’t succeed unless the youth does. This means we have to work with everyone involved, and especially the youth, on his or her plan. It is not our plan, we are just plan agents, working with others to make the best possible outcome.
We address behaviors with a teaching family model with combines positive teaching interactions, emotional development, skill building, community standards among other things to teach alternatives and motivate youth to make healthy and positive choices. We have 90% success rate with this model. We also focus on natural family relationships and allow youth and parents to communicate in healthy and nurturing ways. This builds relationships with families rather than isolates them. These are basic things that should be provided to youth in the social service system. The problem with group homes? They are not all created equal. They are not all family style settings that support and nurture youth.
Vandivere, S., Hair, E., Theokas, C., Cleveland, K., McNamera, M., Atienza, A., “How Housing Affects Child Well Being.” http://www.fundersnetwork.org/files/learn/Housing_and_Child_Well_Being.pdf, (Fall 2006).