Be Wary of Residential Care

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The letter from Heidi Goldsmith in your June issue, advocating the use of residential centers [in child welfare], makes a number of unwarranted statements.

She criticized [reporter] John Kelly’s earlier statement – that such programs are over-used – as not based on research. A study by Madelyn Freundlich and others in 2004 showed that the percentage of children in foster care who were in group care ranged from 1 percent in some states to 35 percent in others. The implications of these findings are unmistakable.

Goldsmith claimed that there is no research to show that children experience better results in family care. There is considerable research evidence of that.

Some conclusions, which are common knowledge among practitioners, do not need additional research. A simple survey of state foster care managers would quickly clarify that group care is heavily overused, by default. It is in the county where I live.

Besides the advantages to children for living in positive family settings, there also are other factors involved in this decision. Most children in the child welfare system who are adopted are adopted by foster parents. The value of lifetime families for those children is immeasurable. Group care facilities do not adopt anyone.

The cost of group care often is 10 times greater, and can quickly consume major portions of state budgets unnecessarily.

Selectively used, temporary treatment-oriented residential care can greatly benefit some children, but overuse serves no one.

Jake Terpstra
Grand Rapids, Mich.

The writer is a retired child welfare specialist with the U.S Children’s Bureau.