As reliance on their services decline in several states, the American Association of Children’s Residential Centers met last week in San Francisco to discuss emerging knowledge on serving high-need youths.
The 58th annual conference, “Community INtegration, Program INnovation, Neuroscience INfluence, and Relational INteractions,” included four days of discussion about issues ranging from data collection to the use of youth workers.
One session focused on how to help children with acute needs succeed in treatment.
Peter Myers, co-executive director at the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School at University of Chicago and Tim Davis, executive director at the Tamarack Center, helped to facilitate the discussion, focusing specifically on strategies that participants attending the session used to deal with foster kids who have a need for more resources due to higher difficulties.
Ronnie Marin, residential care supervisor of Caldwell Cottage at CASA Pacifica, talked about his difficulties in keeping drugs out of the facilities and away from the youth.
“We’re at a loss in how we can keep drugs outside of the facilities,” Marin said, “and not sure what else we can do. What are some ideas in helping us deal with this that anyone else has?”
Numerous attendees responded to Marin’s question, citing solutions such as looking for underlying reasons for substance abuse, peer mentoring, and different forms of incentivizing to keep youth away from substance abuse.
Phil Errico, residential director at Bonnie Brae, talked about the power of instilling support and interest groups in the residences.
“This gives them a sense of belonging, and a place where the peer pressure is redirected to more positive outcomes,” Errico said.
While many participants from around the country noted movement from their states to eliminate residential housing for foster youth, a strong focus on improving conditions at these residences and keeping programming effective still exists.
“Many of the acute children we deal with, if we can’t effectively work with them, end up in juvenile detention,” said Brandon Thibeault, residential site supervisor at Victor Treatment Center. “We really need to take a more proactive rather than reactive approach to how we deal with these kids.”
Victor Valle is a journalism intern with Fostering Media Connections.