Group and residential care programs are each a type of live-in, out-of-home care institutional placements in which staff are trained to work with children and youth whose specific needs are best addressed in a highly structured environment. Placement in a group or residential care facility should only be considered once community-based services have proven ineffective. However, according to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) data for FY 2020, nearly 10% of children and youth in care are in group homes or institutional placements. The Federal Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 places an emphasis on family foster homes and limits the use of group homes.
This episode focuses on Away From Home, a report developed by Think Of Us to understand the perspectives, attitudes, and experiences of young people with recent histories in institutional placements, and to understand their beliefs around reforming or ending institutional placements.
The study engaged 78 different participants who were between 18 and 25 years old with recent histories in institutional placements. Responses were provided through interviews and cultural probes – a research technique with open-ended activities given to participants to uncover the emotional and evocative thoughts young people associate with institutional placements. Responses to cultural probes in Away From Home included poems, photographs, and visual art.
The conversation in this episode dives into the findings and recommendations from the study’s authors on improving institutional care, the emotional toll of institutional placements that participants conveyed, and the current barriers to connecting youth to stable and loving placements.
The following individuals are featured in this episode:
- Sixto Cancel, founder and CEO, Think Of Us
- Sarah Sullivan, senior director, programs, Think Of Us
- Sarah Fathallah, senior director, research, Think Of Us
Topics discussed include the following:
- Why this report was needed during a period where agencies and child welfare policies are already focused on improving and reducing congregate care
- How Think Of Us engaged former care alumni and the “cultural probes” used to share the experiences, emotions, and impacts of institutional care
- What influence foster care alumni had over the development of the report, and the importance of giving power to lived experience when developing or revising policies and processes