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Group Homes for Children and Young People: The Problem Not the Solution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 February 2018

Frank Ainsworth*
Affiliation:
School of Social Work and Community Welfare, James Cook University, Townsville Campus, Queensland, Australia
Patricia Hansen
Affiliation:
Hansen Legal, Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia
*
address for correspondence: Frank Ainsworth, PhD, Senior Principal Research Fellow (Adjunct), School of Social Work and Community Welfare, James Cook University, Townsville Campus, Queensland 4811, Australia. E-mail: frankainsworth@hotmail.com

Abstract

In every state and territory in Australia, child welfare departments, under various names, maintain or, alternatively, fund group homes for children and young people in the non-government sector. Increasingly, these group homes offer only four places with no integrated treatment or educational services. In that respect they can best be viewed as providing care and accommodation only. Since 2010, following the release of a definition of therapeutic residential care by the National Therapeutic Residential Care Work Group, there has been debate about how to make group homes therapeutic. In 2017, as part of a wider reform effort, New South Wales renamed all their out-of-home care (foster care and residential care) as intensive therapeutic care and ceased using the term residential. The net result is that the group homes in New South Wales will from now on be referred to as intensive therapeutic care homes. This article raises questions about the utility of this renaming and explores whether or not group homes can be therapeutic given the characteristics of the population of children and young people they accommodate, their small size, the staffing complement and the limited job satisfaction with high staff turnover as a consequence of this smallness. All of these factors lead to the well-documented, anti-therapeutic instability of the group home life space.

Type
Opinion
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s) 2018 

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