Cluster: Mental Health
Bethany Lee, PhD, University of Maryland at Baltimore
Saturday, January 16, 2010: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Seacliff A (Hyatt Regency)
This symposium features four papers that highlight key areas of research currently being conducted in residential group care programs for youth. Group care programs are fundamental interventions for youth in several public systems, including child welfare, mental health and juvenile justice systems. Considering the prevalence of group care programs and the difficult youth served by this intervention, the importance of scientific evidence to guide practice is clear. Despite its ubiquitous role in youth-serving systems, group care is often criticized for being ineffective (or even dangerous; US GAO, 2007) and overused (Lyons, Libman-Mintzer, Kisiel & Shallcross, 1998). Available evidence indicates that the wide variation in the implementation of group care is partly responsible for the disappointing performance of group care. This symposium will explore these issues as they relate to four different programs of group care research conducted in four different states located in the West, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and South.Like any product or service, variation in quality affects the overall effectiveness. For group care programs, variation in quality has not been well-measured or explored. The first paper in this symposium presents findings from a NIMH-funded study of group care quality. Several core processes are identified and measured to describe the differences between two different treatment models used in group care programs. The second paper uses a methodological approach for identifying variation in group care quality. Ethnography is often considered a tool for studying other cultures; however, the second paper describes how ethnographic methods are being used in a NIMH-funded study to build knowledge on measuring group care quality.In response to concerns about the over-reliance on group care programs, efforts to transition youth from residential settings to community-based services are gaining popularity. Community-based services are seen as less restrictive, less costly and at times, more likely to be evidence-based. Yet research is needed to inform these “step-down” efforts. The third paper in the symposium explores child welfare worker perceptions of what youth currently in group care would be good candidates for transitioning to family care and what community-based services youth would need if they were transitioned out of a group care setting. Finally, the last paper will explore barriers to moving youth from group care to a family setting. This paper presents real-world challenges in implementing a NIMH-funded randomized clinical pilot intervention for older youth in group care. As a whole, this symposium offers four distinct contributions towards building science in an overlooked field of inquiry. This symposium has some unique strengths, most notably the inclusion of research from the only current NIMH-funded group care grants. While the papers reflect wide geographic representation, the central focus on group care allows crosstalk among the papers and researchers. Discussion among presenters and with audience members will be used to integrate lessons learned from this research and suggested next steps in the pursuit of building knowledge in the effective and judicious use of group care for youth.
* noted as presenting author
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