Term Paper: Placement of Children and Youth

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[. . .] Smith (1998) also documented another important trend in relation to juveniles in juvenile justice residential placement settings that has occurred since 1987. As reported by Smith, the proportion of youth held in juvenile facilities for violent offenses increased over the period from 1987 to 1995 for both males and females. Findings reported by Smith suggested that males were more likely than females to be in custody for violent offenses, ranging from 20% in 1987 to 31% in 1995, compared with 6% in 1987 to 13% in 1995 for females. From 1987 to 1995, males were consistently and increasingly more likely to be in custody for delinquent acts (including violent, property, alcohol/drug, and public order offenses and probation violations), 77% in 1987, 82% in 1991, and 83% in 1995. According to Smith, alternatively, females were most likely, but less so each year, to be held in juvenile residential programs for nondelinquent reasons, including status offenses, nonoffender actions, and voluntary admissions, with 62% in 1987, 61% in 1991, and 55% in 1995.

Furthermore, as explained by LeCroy and Ashford (1992), residential placement and treatment services have come to represent both an expensive as well as a common intervention for children and adolescents with serious behavioral and emotional disorders. While less costly than psychiatric hospitalization on a per diem basis, residential treatment proves to be more expensive because of extended stays (Burns & Friedman, 1990; LeCroy & Ashford, 1992). The average annual costs associated with residential treatment and placement services have been estimated to range between $50, 000 and $75, 000 per child. Thus, an increasing complaint most often voiced in relation to residential placement is that a large proportion of the limited funds allocated to the service needs of children and adolescents are potentially committed to supporting residential treatment for a few, with little money left for the development or funding of community-based services (Burns & Friedman, 1990). However, as explained by Handwerk, Friman, Mott and Stairs (1998), in spite of the fact that residential placement represents both a massive and an expensive treatment modality, little research has been conducted that documents the effectiveness of residential treatment for those children and adolescents who receive it.

Current Perceptions on Residential Placement

As suggested by Whitaker (2000a), in spite of the fact that residential placement has continued to be extensively used within professional fields serving children and adolescents, there has been a long-standing sense of distrust of residential programs. Whitaker explained that such views are deeply rooted in American culture and history, emerging from a basic distrust of institutions and their capacity to care for and nurture children. This distrust arose during the mid-19th century when reformers advocated for alternative placements for children and adolescents other than the large congregate child care institutions that existed at that time. The health conditions found in early institutions were found to be horrendous and efforts arose to rescue children from such conditions. As noted by Whitaker, this period in child welfare and services became known as the "placing-out" movement which served as the catalyst to the creation of new, sectarian child care institutions, many of them reflecting the fears of recently arrived immigrant and Catholic families who perceived such efforts as an attempt to deprive children of their cultural and religious birthright.

Similar concerns and advocacy efforts began to resurface in the mid-20th century when child and youth advocates began to once more strongly promote the need for the development of alternatives to residential placement. In 1975, Morris Fritz Mayer who was recognized as a leading advocate for high-quality residential programs used the term "pariah care" to describe the conditions of residential centers that currently existed (Morris, 1975 as cited in Whitaker, 2000). Mayer as well as others promoted increased recognition of society's marginalization and the stigmatization of acting-out youths and the group services designed to meet their needs. Similarly, Wolins (1974) was calling attention to the fact that most residential programs during that time period were no longer staffed by professionals who reportedly had become increasingly discouraged by the lack of effectiveness believed to be associated with such programs. As professionals left residential placements and approbations were steadily withdrew from such programming, as noted by Wolins, residential placements for children and adolescents began to increasingly deteriorate with little evidence of ongoing efforts to promote the investment necessary for innovative and effective treatment programming within residential care.

According to Whitaker (2000a), after the first White House Conference on Children occurred in 1909, there was growing agreement that children and youth in need of out-of-home placement should be served by the family foster care system rather than in residential and group care settings. There was also an emphasis on insuring that truly dependent children were placed in foster care rather than in residential placement. Whitaker noted that by the mid-20th century, less than 10% of children in group care settings fit the description of "true orphans" or dependent children, representing the fact that the greater proportion of those children considered to be dependent children were now being served in family foster care. This was a complete reversal from what had been occurring in child placement at the beginning of the century. According to Whitaker, the focus in relation to group care settings then shifted to one in which efforts were directed towards their development as specialized treatment programs for children with emotional disturbance and/or conduct problems, for whom family foster care was deemed insufficient or inappropriate.

Within the literature, it is possible to discern at least five specific historical and current perceptions regarding residential placement and group treatment for children and youth. The first perception is based on reports regarding the degree to which residential placement and group treatment represents a helpful treatment method. Early accounts of residential placement experiences (e.g., Polsky, 1965; Schur, 1973) suggested that children and adolescents received treatment that was negligent and/or abusive while in residential placement. Other reports suggested that there were incongruities between treatment prescribed in residential programs and treatment delivered (Jessness, Allison, McCormick, Wedge, & Young, 1975; Kazdin, 1985; Quay, 1977). Similarly, the National Academy of Sciences panel, commissioned to evaluate evidence on the efficacy of residential placement programs for juvenile offenders, concluded that most evaluation studies were of limited value because little treatment was delivered and the treatment that was delivered often had little resemblance to the treatment prescribed (Martin, Sechrest, & Redner, 1981; Sechrest, White, & Brown, 1979). Concerns regarding the helpfulness of residential placement were further fueled by court rulings that mandated the right to treatment after finding residential programs deficient in providing meaningful treatment services to children and youth (e.g., Donaldson vs. O'Connor, 1974).

Another area of concern evidenced within the literature is associated with the relationships of supervising adults and the children and adolescents they serve in residential placements. Such relationships have tended to be perceived as adversarial, servile, or colluding and were fostered by the early work found in Goffman's (1964) Asylums, Sykes's (1958) The Society of Captives, and Clemmer's (1940) The Prisoner Community. Each of these books helped to suggest and foster the belief that the treatment received from custodians in residential placement programs was nothing less than horrific and painful. Similarly, later works suggested that those children and adolescents who entered residential placement programs suffered from problems with authority and found themselves in worse shape upon release due to the lack of freedom they were subjected to while in care (e.g., Empey & Stafford, 1991). Overall, there was concern as to how children and adolescents in residential care faired in future relationships after their experiences with adults who readily and at times, harshly, enforced rules (e.g., Lundman, 1984; Polsky, 1965).

A third major concern that has been evidenced in relation to residential placement is that associated with the degree to which residential placement produces an inexorable sense of isolation from family and friends (e.g., Eisikovits & Guttman, 1988; Empey & Stafford, 1991; Kiesler, 1982). The all-encompassing nature of residential life, the presence of institutional barriers to outside contact, and first-hand as well as case descriptions of residential life have emphasized the isolation and disconnection that children and youth experience in relation to family and friends (e.g., D'Amato, 1969; Polsky, 1965; Schur, 1973; Trieschman & Whittaker, 1972; Trieschman, Whittaker, & Brendtro, 1969).

Finally, as evidenced within the literature, there has also been concern over the degree to which residential placement leads to a limitation of children and youth's development of a sense of personal of control. As suggested within the literature, isolated from and forced to live away from their homes, families, and friends, children and adolescents are at risk in terms of their own sense of control over life events and less prepared to handle the future challenges of living (e.g., Gold & Osgood, 1992; Sykes, 1958). The importance of this belief is underscored by research showing that reduced sense of control has a strong relationship to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Placement of Children and Youth.  (2003, June 9).  Retrieved June 20, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/placement-children-youth/8663663

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