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The Importance of Group Homes for Ordinary People

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    The size of orphanages has declined over time and currently group homes serve a main function in providing care for children who are in need of social assistance. Even though group homes share the same goal of increasing the independence of abandoned youths, they vary in formats and functions to target specific needs for children. Family oriented structure of group homes makes it easier for staff to connect with children and meet their personal needs. While group homes provide many important services, they also have shortcomings.

    State run group homes employees tend to be understaffed and lack proper skill to provide proper care for children. Furthermore, there have been numerous reports of a male staff physically abusing female residents. These problems can be improved by implementing strict laws that require background check on employees, minimum training and supervision on staff performance. In the late 1800s, orphanages were present in the United States as primary means to provide these children with care and housing. Orphanages looked after children whose parents were deceased or otherwise unable or willing to care for them.

    Parents, and sometimes grandparents, were legally responsible for supporting children, but in the absence of these relatives, they became a ward of the state. Orphanage conditions varied but they tended to be poor. Many orphanages were highly regimented, especially early in the century. Children marched to meals, ate in silence, wore uniforms and sometimes had their heads shaved. Corporal punishment was common and children were routinely beaten across the hands with leather straps. To make matters worse, orphanages were often dangerous. The mortality rate was not much better than living on the streets.

    Older, bigger, tougher kids bullied younger, smaller children. As hard as it was to leave kids at the mercy of some adults, it was much worse to leave them at the mercy of hundreds of kids. Living in an orphanage meant either being a predator or a victim. There were institutions that were well run by compassionate people, but in general, surviving at orphanage with hundreds of other kids was tough. Orphanage size ranged from 100 to 1000. In the 1900s, orphanages were looked at more and more negatively, and by the middle 20th century, child welfare workers began focusing on recreating family like environment (Maclean).

    This Cultural emphasis changed from orphanages to group homes. In 1909, the White House held its first conference on care for dependent children. The conference was led by President Theodore Roosevelt along with 200 attendees, and they decided to deinstitutionalize orphanages due to the many problems mentioned above. As a consequence of this deinstitutionalization program, orphanages slowly phased out in favor of direct support for vulnerable children to stay in an intimate family setting. The United States adopted a group home system to deal with children with no parents or relatives to take care of them.

    The group home is usually a non-profit business licensed by the state to provide specific care services to dependent minors. There is always a contract that spells out the responsibilities of a group home. All the group homes are required to provide staffing for 24 hour care, nutritious meals, a clean household, professional counseling and a bedroom for every two minors. In addition, support services and care are required. Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of the home staff to assure that all these requirements are fulfilled.

    The basic structure of a group home is a standard, single-family house to meet the needs of the residents. Group homes are virtually indistinguishable from other homes in the surrounding neighborhood and they could be located in neighborhoods of any socioeconomic status. State and federal funds continue to support the majority of group homes, but some group homes are owned by private organizations. The funding for group home minors usually comes from a combination of federal, state and county sources.

    The monthly payment that a home receives per child depends on a level point system and staff qualifications, services that the home provides. The higher the rate classification levels of a home, the more intense the supervision and services the home provides in order to deal with the more troubled minors. There are typically from 3 to 16 residents as well as resident managers or service staff living in a group home. Residents usually have their own room and share facilities such as laundry, bathroom, kitchen and common living areas.

    Having a limited number of residents living in a group home is advantageous to having hundreds of children residing in a clustered orphanage. This structure of group homes allows children to have a family setting with house parents who can accommodate with their specific needs and help meet their personal goals. Group homes can either provide long-term care or a temporary placement. Some children have lost their parents, have been abandoned or become homeless due to abuse and neglect. Group homes provide much more than shelter and food since it has staff to nurture and counsel the children.

    Some group homes are no different than any normal family. They are lively households with house parents and staff who make the children feel safe and at home. Group homes also do service like school drop-offs, movie outings, and sports. Since the development of group homes occur in response to the deinstitutionalization movement in the 1960s and 1970s, they strive to focus on having a typical family life setting as much as possible. (Maclean) One of the main goals of group home living is to increase the independency of residents.

    Group home staff members teach residents daily living and self-care skills. Daily living skills include meal preparation, laundry, housecleaning, home maintenance, money management, and appropriate social interactions. Staff also assure that residents receive necessary services from community service providers, including medical care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, vocational training, education and mental health services. They also try to encourage and work with children to reach their goals by providing intensive therapy and counseling for those who need it.

    These youths are given support, training and love as caring staff prepare them to transition into adulthood through independent living. Group homes share the same goal of increasing the independence of abandoned youth, but there are many different types of group homes to accommodate specific needs for children. Some group homes focus on getting young people off the streets before they become victims of crime. Counselors help the youth resolve whatever problems caused them to be homeless. Most of the homeless children on the street that are placed in group homes are aged between 5 and 17.

    These youth are rescued from living in junk boxes, parks, or on the street itself before they get placed into group homes. They are subject to neglect, exploitation and so are given additional care when placed in group homes. Another type of group home provides a safe, nurturing environment for teenage mothers, aged 13 to 19 (Campolo). Group maternity homes are for teenagers with unplanned pregnancies who have nowhere to go. The young mothers learn to become self-sufficient and good parents. House parents are trained to understand their special needs and work with these youth who may be suffering from emotional problems.

    They also get professional counseling and therapy to help avoid future pregnancies and make positive changes in their lives. These centers can give pregnant teens a stable and healthy living environment as well as providing a community of young women in a similar situation. The last type of group home is to provide care for children who are either abandoned or removed from negative influences in their homes. The children coming to these facilities many times encounter difficult circumstances at a young age, which many times affect their viewing themselves and others.

    Group homes try to make children experience a sense of belonging and acceptance from the group home structure. Group homes exist to provide their residents time and space to learn, grow, and heal. Within the group home structure, children are given responsibilities to cultivate a solid work ethic and to build self-esteem. They are also encouraged to participate in various school and community activities and youth treatment programs focusing on a variety of developmental needs. Typical group home staff consists of direct care providers with high school diplomas.

    The care providers supervise the children living at home to make sure that the minors are in good health, get to school daily and get their chores done. Some homes do better than others in retaining staff if they compensate them with higher pay, better work environment and greater training opportunities. The house manager is responsible for the operation of the household, the food and management. The case manager, who is usually a licensed social worker, is in charge of personnel, counsels the minors, maintains discipline and monitors the minor’s activities.

    Alternatively, the home may have a staff clinician that does the counseling, one to one as well as group therapy. The larger corporate group homes have a more structured organization that sometimes results in a more distant relationship between managers and care providers, When the case manager divides his time between the corporate headquarters, the child and the staff, the children’s immediate needs may not be met. No matter what kind of group home children end up living in, all residents receive guidance on life skills, employment and problem-solving abilities needed to succeed as adults.

    House parents are there to help each kid to develop and learn life skills. The mission for group homes is to develop and administer programs to enhance the safety and quality of life for children, youth, and families through a quality care in the fields of social services, education, corrections, mental health, and housing. Unfortunately, even though group homes have a good intention of providing abandoned minors with a place to live, they still receive much opposition from communities. The common reaction of community residents is negative.

    Current research suggests that protests frequently involve concerns over residents’ personal security, declining property values, or a generalized threat to the neighborhood’s quality. Some researchers believe that ignorance and fear contribute to prejudiced attitudes and are the true reasons for protest. Usually neighborhood opposition is unsuccessful due to the provision of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. This law’s primary purpose was to prohibit discrimination in the housing related transaction based on race, color, or status.

    Prevalence of such opposition can be detrimental to the goal of integrating residents into the community. A recent study proposed that such opposition could be decreased by providing advanced notice of plans for a group home, as well as adequate information and discussion about expectations. Initially, many people were skeptical about the adequacy of group home care. Nevertheless, group homes have been showing great success in many parts of the country. While there are successes in many group homes, troubles are inherent since they serve diverse and some problematic population.

    Youth in group homes are exposed to other high-risk children. Because they are less restrictively screened for these facilities, there can be many risky behaviors. Youths may be affected by the deviant behavior of other youths. Furthermore, children in group home settings generally receive lower grades in school, have behavior problems, and attain lower levels of education. Limited opportunities to be in academic and extra-curricular activities also present challenges. To make matters worse, in hundreds of cases reviewed by the New York Times found that those employees who sexually abused or beat residents were rarely fired.

    Even after repeated offenses, they were simply transferred to other group homes run by the state (Hakim). There were multiple reports such as a female client getting raped by a male staff member inside the facility. The records show that most group homes are inclined to report criminal behavior inside the homes. Employees at community homes are often under-trained, poorly paid and inadequately screened. The subcommittee found that in many states, virtually anyone can open a home. Little regard is given to an owner’s track record in other states.

    Despite many behavioral and psychological problems of many clients, subcommittee investors found that providers often offer employees only basic trainings. Furthermore, the subcommittee investigation found that workers in community group homes are paid 54% less than workers performing similar functions at institutional settings, and received much poorer benefits. Dissatisfaction over low wages can be associated with a tendency to abuse or neglect the clients. (Hakim) Even though there are some state laws requiring to report such accidents, institutions rarely reports incidents.

    The record shows that among 13,000 allegations of abuse in 2009 within state- operated and licensed homes, fewer than 5 percent were referred to law enforcement (Hakim). Only a quarter of sexual abuse cases were reported which lead to flaws in record keeping. When New York Times reviewed 399 disciplinary cases involving 233 state workers who were accused of one of seven serious offences including physical abuse and neglect, 25 percent of state employees were transferred to other homes (Hakim). After they arrive at their new workplaces, they often abuse again.

    The system makes it harder to fire workers since they are protected by union. Another rising problem in the group homes is unnatural deaths in group homes. One in six of all deaths in state and privately run homes, or more than 1,200 in the past decade, have been attributed to either unnatural or unknown causes (Buettner, Hakim). In addition, New York has made little effort to track or thoroughly investigate the deaths to look for troubling trends, resulting in the same kinds of errors and preventable deaths, over and over.

    The state does not even collect statistics on specific causes of death. At homes operated by nonprofit organizations, low-level employees were often fired or disciplined, but at state-run homes, it is also difficult to take action against caregivers, who are represented by unions that contest disciplinary measures. Group homes provide many positive services but also bring some negative outcomes. Generally there is a tendency to view group homes positively since it was an alternative solution for the orphanage system that miserably failed.

    Yet, there are some areas that need serious revision in the group homes. The most significant policy change that needs to be made is the better selection of staff and supervision of their performance. Group homes tend to have leniency in hiring staff without much background checks. It is possible that a person who might cook and clean in a group home might have a background related to being pedophile which would motivate them to be around children and purposefully get a job at group homes.

    Since there is no law requiring the background check for employees in group home, anyone with bad intent can work in group homes and commit serious crimes. There should be a strict law to enforce having strict qualifications for employees. Furthermore, there should be an aggressive quality-assurance program to track information about group home providers and employees. States should also require minimum training for employees and create incentives for improved employee pay and benefits. In addition, since children have different needs, a wider range of programs is needed. And the federal government also should set a universal means for analysis of group homes so that they could consistently address the problems in different locations.

    Works Cited

    Campolo, Tony. “Honor Pregnant Teens and Young Moms. ” Http://www. spiritrestoration. org/Family%20&%20Parenting/Homes%20for%20Pregnant%20Teens. htm. Web. 1 Dec. 2011. “Children’s Bureau, Inc. – History – 1934 to 1945. ” History of Children’s Bureau. Web. 05 Dec. 2011. <http://www. childrensbureau. org/corp/history/history7. php>. “Group Home. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 05 Dec. 2011. <http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Group_home>. “Group Homes – Children, Therapy, Adults, People, Skills, Health, Definition, Description. ” Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. Web. 05 Dec. 2011. <http://www. minddisorders. com/Flu-Inv/Group-homes. html>. “Group Homes. ” CFS Home. Web. 05 Dec. 2011. <http://www. childsworld. ca. gov/PG1349. htm>. Hakim, Danny. “At State-Run Homes, Abuse and Impunity. ” Http://www. nytimes. com/2011/03/13/nyregion/13homes. html? pagewanted=all.

    The New York times, 12 Mar. 2011. Web. 1 Dec. 2011. Hakim, Danny. “In State Care, 1200 Deaths and Few Answers. ” Http://www. nytimes. com/2011/11/06/nyregion/at-state-homes-simple-tasks-and-fatal-results. html? pagewanted=5&_r=1&emc=eta1. The New York Times, 5 Nov. 2011. Web. 1 Dec. 2011. Maclean, Kim. “Orphans. ” Http://www. encyclopedia. com/topic/Orphanages. aspx. 2003. Web. 1 Dec. 2011. “Orphanages – Orphanages in the United States, PostCivil War Orphanages, The Attack on Orphanages, PostWorld War I Orphanages – Encyclopedia of Children

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