Residential Centers Can Be Ideal

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John Kelly’s article “Child Welfare’s Historic Headache” [May] states, “Yes, residential centers are overused in child welfare.”

Why is this stated as a fact, rather than as an opinion? What are the specific thresholds for the use of residential centers? Which “residential centers” – group homes, residential treatment centers, residential education centers, emergency shelters – are being addressed in this statement?

Has there been research that proves traditional foster care is better for children, especially older children, than larger residential settings? Should there be such thresholds, or is it better to look at the children who need a safe, nurturing, education-focused setting and consider what is in each child’s best interest?

In fact, in Kelly’s article, a Texas Child Protective Services spokesman suggests, “It would be disruptive to drop the youths into traditional schools and foster homes. We want to keep them in groups and, wherever we can, keep siblings together.”

Here it seems that residential settings – which provide children the opportunity to live with their siblings in single-family homes with a married houseparent couple and 6 to 10 children – are the most appropriate setting for these children. For some, residential education settings are the ideal situation: a safe, stable, family-like environment where siblings can remain together.

The blanket statement that residential centers are overused in child welfare is based on bias, not research. The range of options, including high-quality residential programs, for children needing out-of-home care needs to be broadened, not narrowed, as affirmed by Public Law 109-288, passed in 2006.

Heidi Goldsmith, Executive Director
Coalition for Residential Education
Silver Spring, Md.