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Achieving Permanence for Youth Living in Group Homes Carroll Schroeder Executive Director, California Alliance of Child and Family Services Erik Sternad.

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Presentation on theme: "Achieving Permanence for Youth Living in Group Homes Carroll Schroeder Executive Director, California Alliance of Child and Family Services Erik Sternad."— Presentation transcript:

1 Achieving Permanence for Youth Living in Group Homes Carroll Schroeder Executive Director, California Alliance of Child and Family Services Erik Sternad Executive Director, Stanford Home for Children

2 What is a group home? Community Care Licensing says group homes are: Community Care Licensing says group homes are:  Facilities of any capacity  That provide 24-hour non-medical care and supervision  To children  In a structured environment. Group Homes provide social, psychological, and behavioral programs for troubled youths. C

3 Who places youth in group homes? County child welfare departments (WIC 300) County child welfare departments (WIC 300) County probation departments (WIC 600) County probation departments (WIC 600) Parents through county mental health departments pursuant to IEPs. (AB 3632) Parents through county mental health departments pursuant to IEPs. (AB 3632) C

4 Why are youth placed in group homes? Your turn Your turn Boiled down to essentials: Boiled down to essentials:  Keep youth safe  Don’t discharge them  Make sure they go to school  Keep them out of trouble Are they placed in group homes to achieve permanency? Are they placed in group homes to achieve permanency? E

5 How have group homes been used? Old model: Kids with behavioral challenges grow up in group homes. Old model: Kids with behavioral challenges grow up in group homes. Actuality: Kids with behavioral challenges bounce around from group home to group home until they emancipate. Emerging model: Group homes provide short- term interventions for youth whose needs temporarily cannot be safely met in the community. Emerging model: Group homes provide short- term interventions for youth whose needs temporarily cannot be safely met in the community. E

6 An evolution in expectations Haven for displaced children Haven for displaced children  A new home, a better place to live Correction for difficult children Correction for difficult children  Teaching them to act responsibly Treatment for troubled children Treatment for troubled children  Remediating psychological disorders C

7 What to we mean by permanency? For foster children and youth, For foster children and youth, A lifelong connection with a committed adult who provides: A lifelong connection with a committed adult who provides:  A safe, stable and secure parenting relationship;  Love;  Unconditional commitment; and  Lifelong support. E

8 2 means of achieving permanency Restore families’ capacity to safely care for and nurture their own children (reunification) Restore families’ capacity to safely care for and nurture their own children (reunification) Build alternative families through Build alternative families through  Adoption  Kin Guardianship  Other committed lifelong relationship E

9 Why might group homes not be supportive of reunification?

10 Probation Child ‘s criminal or delinquent behavior Can’t or won’t control youth’s behavior Control youth’s behavior (instead of parents) Placing agency Reason for placing youth Implied role of parent Implied role of group home They may see parents as incompetent C

11 Placing agency Reason for placing youth Implied role of parent Implied role of group home They may see parents as dangerous E C.P.S. Youth is abused or neglected Abusive or neglectful Protect youth from parents…and control youth’s behavior

12 Placing agency Reason for placing youth Implied role of parent Implied role of group home They may see parents as pathological C Mental Health Youth is emotionally disturbed Caused disturbance through bad genes or bad parenting Cure youth’s illness caused by parents…and control youth’s behavior

13 Summary Group home staff may see parents as cause of youth’s problems. Group home staff may see parents as cause of youth’s problems. May see other family members as somehow contributing to youth’s problems. May see other family members as somehow contributing to youth’s problems.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. May see job as rescuing or protecting youth from negative influence of family. May see job as rescuing or protecting youth from negative influence of family. E

14 Why might group homes not be supportive of other permanency options?

15 They may not know it’s their job Group home staff may be only vaguely aware of the notion of permanence Group home staff may be only vaguely aware of the notion of permanence Nobody may have told group home staff they are expected to help achieve permanency for youth Nobody may have told group home staff they are expected to help achieve permanency for youth C

16 They may not think it’s possible or the best thing for the youth Group home staff may believe that only they really understand how deeply troubled the youth is: It would not be good for the youth to live with a family. Group home staff may believe that only they really understand how deeply troubled the youth is: It would not be good for the youth to live with a family. If prospective permanent connections knew the youth’s challenges, they would not really want the youth permanently. If prospective permanent connections knew the youth’s challenges, they would not really want the youth permanently. Staff may believe the group home is really a good place for youth, that it meets his/her needs. Staff may believe the group home is really a good place for youth, that it meets his/her needs. E

17 What is it about group homes themselves that may get in the way of permanency?

18 A. Permanency is individualized, not a group activity Group homes work through group measures: Group homes work through group measures:  Group living  Group activities  Group therapy Youth and staff expect all youth to be treated equally. Youth and staff expect all youth to be treated equally. But, permanency activities are, by their nature unequal: But, permanency activities are, by their nature unequal:  They are not the same for each youth.  The are highly individualized. C

19 How do youth succeed in group homes? Group homes require youth to comply with the requirements of the program. Group homes require youth to comply with the requirements of the program. Program requirements invariably revolve around expected and prohibited behavior: Program requirements invariably revolve around expected and prohibited behavior:  Go to school  Don’t get in fights  Obey staff  Don’t do drugs  Etc. When youth comply, they are “doing their program,” they are succeeding When youth comply, they are “doing their program,” they are succeeding C

20 B. Group homes may use permanency activities to manage behavior Group homes reward desired behavior and punish prohibited behavior. Group homes reward desired behavior and punish prohibited behavior. Enjoyable activities may be granted to reward behavior or withheld to punish it. Enjoyable activities may be granted to reward behavior or withheld to punish it. Permanency related activities may be extremely enjoyable, and may be used to reward or punish behavior. Permanency related activities may be extremely enjoyable, and may be used to reward or punish behavior. E

21 C. Permanency activities may lead to problematic behavior In group homes, the most important task is to assure safety In group homes, the most important task is to assure safety Key to safety is maintaining order. Key to safety is maintaining order. Keeping a lid on anxiety helps maintain order. Keeping a lid on anxiety helps maintain order. Permanency-related activities may be very anxiety producing. Permanency-related activities may be very anxiety producing.  Visits or missed visits  Phone calls or missed phone calls  Loyalty conflicts C

22 D. Most group homes don’t know how to work with family members Group home staff are accustomed to working with youth, not their parents or potential parents. Group home staff are accustomed to working with youth, not their parents or potential parents. Few group homes have the background, skill or capacity to build family members into their programs. Few group homes have the background, skill or capacity to build family members into their programs. As a result, group homes may see family members as meddlesome or burdensome. As a result, group homes may see family members as meddlesome or burdensome. E

23 Remember… Group home staff are often young, inexperienced, and poorly paid. Group home staff are often young, inexperienced, and poorly paid. They often feel overworked, overlooked and unappreciated. They often feel overworked, overlooked and unappreciated. Frequently, they have been hit, spat on and vilified by they youth they are trying to help. Frequently, they have been hit, spat on and vilified by they youth they are trying to help. They are responsible for the youth 24/7; you’re not. They are responsible for the youth 24/7; you’re not. Chances are, they are doing the best they can. Chances are, they are doing the best they can. C

24 How can you help group homes support permanency efforts?

25 1. Assume the group home is trying to do what’s right. Group homes are trying to help the youth based on their view of the youth, their job and what is expected of them. Group homes are trying to help the youth based on their view of the youth, their job and what is expected of them. The group home’s view may be very different from yours. The group home’s view may be very different from yours.  You have knowledge and expectations that may be different from their’s E

26 2. Treat group home staff with respect. Find out who is in charge. Speak with him/her first, always. Find out who is in charge. Speak with him/her first, always. Explain what you are trying to achieve. Explain what you are trying to achieve. Ask the group home staff to explain their program and how it works. Ask the group home staff to explain their program and how it works. Ask group home staff for their view of the youth, his/her strengths and needs Ask group home staff for their view of the youth, his/her strengths and needs  Do your best to see things through their eyes and feed it back to them C

27 Ask who are the key staff working with the youth and ask to meet with them even before you meet with the youth Ask who are the key staff working with the youth and ask to meet with them even before you meet with the youth Ask permission before doing anything…and let the youth see you asking Ask permission before doing anything…and let the youth see you asking Keep staff fully informed of everything that is happening: Over-communicate Keep staff fully informed of everything that is happening: Over-communicate E

28 3. Go out of your way to make it easy for staff. Assume that anything you ask staff to do will be perceived as an imposition, so… Assume that anything you ask staff to do will be perceived as an imposition, so…  Make it as easy for them as possible  Whenever possible, ask nothing that requires extra work of them  Make them want to help you help the youth achieve permanence because it makes their job easier C

29 4. Use them for what they’re good at. A safe, predictable, durable 24/7 supervision and crisis intervention living alternative. A safe, predictable, durable 24/7 supervision and crisis intervention living alternative. 24 hour monitoring, behavioral intervention, and treatment. 24 hour monitoring, behavioral intervention, and treatment. Niche specific treatment approaches (JSO’s, chemical dependency, etc.). Niche specific treatment approaches (JSO’s, chemical dependency, etc.). Recognition by the court and the community as a controlled supervision setting. Recognition by the court and the community as a controlled supervision setting. E

30 5. Introduce the family (permanency option) into the group home Help staff acknowledge that “family” will almost always be more permanent than any of us. Help staff acknowledge that “family” will almost always be more permanent than any of us. Include family “voice and choice” in planning Include family “voice and choice” in planning Faith the size of a mustard seed: Family growth will lead to youth progress. Faith the size of a mustard seed: Family growth will lead to youth progress. Help staff plan with the family, not for the family. Their growing capacity is crucial for permanency success. Help staff plan with the family, not for the family. Their growing capacity is crucial for permanency success. E

31 6. Pre-permanency plan Group homes may be afraid to let go of youth for fear they will fail Group homes may be afraid to let go of youth for fear they will failSo… From Day 1, relentlessly pursue permanency through evolving plans for the youth’s return to the community From Day 1, relentlessly pursue permanency through evolving plans for the youth’s return to the community  Transition plan from group home to community  Community-based services and support for the youth and family (wraparound plan) CE

32 7. Share the glory. Share each successful step with group home staff Share each successful step with group home staff Thank them for their support Thank them for their support Make sure the youth and family thank them Make sure the youth and family thank them C

33 Do not… Ride in on your white horse to save the youth from the horrible group home Ride in on your white horse to save the youth from the horrible group home Criticize the group home staff or program when talking with the youth Criticize the group home staff or program when talking with the youth Throw your weight around or play the heavy Throw your weight around or play the heavy Assume you know more than group home staff Assume you know more than group home staff Return the youth with fries and a Coke Return the youth with fries and a Coke Blame Blame CE

34 8. When problems arise… Deal with them directly Deal with them directly Try to solve the problem at the lowest level first (don’t go to the ED at the first sign of a problem) Try to solve the problem at the lowest level first (don’t go to the ED at the first sign of a problem) Bring together everyone who needs to be in the room to solve the problem Bring together everyone who needs to be in the room to solve the problem Ask what you can do differently to solve the problem Ask what you can do differently to solve the problem If you need to state your limits, do so directly and non-threateningly If you need to state your limits, do so directly and non-threateningly CE

35 If you find yourself at loggerheads with the group home, remember… “Who defines problems and sets the agenda is a political issue. It is a question of territory.” Lyman Wynn “Who defines problems and sets the agenda is a political issue. It is a question of territory.” Lyman Wynn It’s not important that the group home does what you want, it’s important that the youth achieves permanence It’s not important that the group home does what you want, it’s important that the youth achieves permanence C

36 Your chances of success are greatest… When the group home, the youth, the family and you are in agreement on the outcome you are trying to achieve and are working together to achieve it. When the group home, the youth, the family and you are in agreement on the outcome you are trying to achieve and are working together to achieve it. E


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