Tuesday, April 25, 2006

more on group homes

I got more comfortable with group homes the first time I walked into one to pick Evan up. It was just a house in a neighborhood. There was no sign. When I went in it was just a house with a couple of casually dressed, cheerful women who looked really well-rested, and half a dozen kids. It did not feel institutional at all.

If I had unlimited resources and total control over foster care I would do the following things:

-Have small group homes available for all the kids with severe attachment disorders or histories that make them feel unsafe in families.
-Offer all those kids intensive therapies designed to help them join families when they are ready, but have no time limit on it. If the group home is the only place the kids ever feel safe, then so be it.

-Have enough foster homes that kids who need to be only children can be.
-Have enough foster homes who are prepared to take sibling groups.
-Have a wide variety of types of homes and parents.
*Some where the parents want to have close emotional relationships with the kids
*Homes like mine that take older teenagers where the kids are given a safe place to grow up with out emotional intimacy being demanded of them (although hopefully it grows).
*Home like Mandy's where the parents are willing to take kids who need everything locked up and very clear and strict rules about physical touching.

And everything in between.

The more I do care the more I see wide ranges in the needs of the kids.

Oh...and nothing here is meant to disparage adoption, although you can imagine that I don't think it is a good idea for every kid. (Duh...she does permanent placement foster care.)


  1. I agree with all of the above.

    I also wish that not a one of them would ever be necessary.

    And you know I don't mean that personally.

  2. Not only do I not take it personally, I agree!

    What a wonderful world it would be if all children were cherished and nourished from the time they were born!

    Imagine, a world in which foster care, if it was needed at all, was only needed as a temporary place for kids to stay until they were placed adopted or placed with loving grannies.

    I'm afraid I cannot quite imagine a world in which parents never became unable to care for their children, not as long as we exist in these frail human bodies.

  3. That's a really interesting point of view!

    Isn't it funny how, in every field, there seems to be a pendulum swing from one extreme to the other?

    In this case, the current trend is toward foster homes, and group homes are viewed as (at best) a necessary evil.

    Yet... there are some positive things about group homes. The supervision. The comraderie. The safeguard of having multiple staff available.

    Maybe it's not group homes that are bad... but the lack of regulation over them?

    Back in the 80's between the ages of 12-16, I spent time in an all-girls and co-ed group home.

    My mother had died and my father had abandoned me, so I guess that I was almost an orphan. But the state couldn't figure out where to house me until I came of age. It's hard to find foster homes for teens.

    Here are the pros and cons of group home living (from my point of view):

    1.) It's a lot like college dorm life. Lots of silliness like playing truth-or-dare, listening to music, gossiping, doing make-overs...

    2.) No sense of isolation. As "group home kids" you might (and do) face some stigmatization at school, but at the end of the day, you all ride the bus home together.

    3.) Increased accountability for staff. When I stayed in one group home, a staff member made a pass at me. Nothing ever came of it (thank God) -- perhaps because he was never alone with me! The other girls were almost always there (whew).

    1.) Back in the 80's in co-ed group homes, they housed boys and girls right next to each other in the same cottage.

    Teenage guys and gals, right next door to one another. Wonder what happened after lights out?

    2.) You always knew that the "houseparents" weren't your parents at all. There was a lot of jealousy toward the houseparents' real kids.

    Honestly? If you could have a group home and:

    1.) House the kids with common sense in mind. Boys and girls in different cottages. Alarms, even.

    2.) See if people in the community would each pick a kid and visit that kid on a regular basis. Find the best match to invest in that teenager, even on a biweekly basis.

    3.) Training for houseparents: "Look, these are not your kids. So, there's no incest taboo. For some men, teenage girls can seem ripe and attractive. But, regardless, these kids have been harmed enough already -- so keep your hands off!!"

    If they could cover those areas, then I think group homes would be fine. But that's just me, viewing this from the lens of my experience.

  4. I have known several kids who could not function in a family. We had such a child in our home for several months last summer. We worry that our newest child might be like that, but we are fighting to make it work. I agree with all you wrote and know that some kids do better in that situation. But it's a hard raod for the kids that age out straight from a group home, I think.

  5. Thanks everyone...Lisa in particular...it was from reading your blog that inspired me to write about them here! Meant to mention that in the post itself. Oops


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