Questions Courts Must Ask Before Placing Children in Group Homes

Posted March 29, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog questionscourtsmustask 2017

Before assign­ing young peo­ple to group homes or oth­er res­i­den­tial treat­ment facil­i­ties, child wel­fare judges need more infor­ma­tion, accord­ing to a report from the Build­ing Bridges Ini­tia­tive and Asso­ci­a­tion of Children’s Res­i­den­tial Cen­ters. One item on this must-know list: Whether or not pro­fes­sion­als have explored all pos­si­ble place­ment options for a youth, includ­ing liv­ing with a fam­i­ly member. 

The Casey Foun­da­tion-sup­port­ed report, Best Prac­tices for Res­i­den­tial Inter­ven­tions for Youth and their Fam­i­lies, aims to help judges, lawyers and oth­ers involved in child wel­fare and juve­nile jus­tice cas­es iden­ti­fy key com­po­nents of safe and effec­tive res­i­den­tial programs.

Read the report

To do so, the report’s authors out­line spe­cif­ic ques­tions that courts should ask. These include:

  • Did an in-depth assess­ment indi­cate that the child’s needs could not be met in a fam­i­ly setting?
  • What steps have occurred to find and involve fam­i­ly mem­bers and oth­er pos­i­tive adult fig­ures who can stay con­nect­ed to the youth dur­ing and after the intervention?
  • Does the treat­ment facil­i­ty being con­sid­ered sat­is­fy all crit­i­cal com­po­nents of a safe, qual­i­ty and effec­tive res­i­den­tial program?
  • Does the dis­charge plan demon­strate urgency in return­ing the youth to a home set­ting, ide­al­ly in less than three months?

In many state and coun­ty child wel­fare sys­tems, youth are assigned lawyers and pros­e­cu­tors who are not spe­cial­ists in the field and who may assume that res­i­den­tial facil­i­ties are good for teenagers,” says Tracey Feild, direc­tor and man­ag­er of Casey’s Child Wel­fare Strat­e­gy Group. This guide shows what a good time-lim­it­ed pro­gram should look like and empha­sizes that place­ment with fam­i­ly and kin should always be pur­sued first.”

Both the report and an accom­pa­ny­ing exec­u­tive sum­ma­ry draw on research sug­gest­ing that young peo­ple fare best in nur­tur­ing, sta­ble fam­i­lies, and that — when chil­dren need res­i­den­tial treat­ment facil­i­ties — they must receive high-qual­i­ty, short-term care. These facil­i­ties also must meet spe­cif­ic stan­dards, includ­ing hav­ing a strong and pas­sion­ate com­mit­ment to every youth hav­ing a per­ma­nent family.”

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