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May 2006Vol. 7, No. 4Residential Education as Out-of-Home Placement

Not all children who are removed from their families because of abuse or neglect are placed in foster or kinship homes. An alternative for some children and youth is the use of residential educational placements. Sometimes termed "boarding schools" or "youth villages," these communities provide a safe and stable environment for children and youth to live and attend school.

Advocates for residential education compare it to the boarding school experiences generally reserved for children from privileged families. Students attend small classes where they receive individualized attention; they participate in sports and other extracurricular activities; and the teaching of values and social skills occurs not only in the classroom but also around the clock as positive adult role models provide guidance and nurturance. Most importantly, the focus on youth development provided by these schools helps students understand their own potential and their responsibility for realizing it.

As in foster care, there is an emphasis on maintaining connections with birth family members. Depending on the school and their individual situations, students may visit their families on weekends or maintain contact through phone calls or letters. Often, the students' parents are making their own changes as they address their substance abuse, mental illness, or other challenges. These schools also work to accommodate sibling groups, so that many children are enrolled with their sisters and brothers.

The Coalition for Residential Education (CORE) is a national nonprofit membership organization for residential schools for children from the child welfare system, as well as children from other backgrounds, including homelessness or severely dysfunctional families. CORE serves as an advocacy organization, resource center, and research arm for its 36 member schools. Its national CAREStandards (CORE Certification for Residential Excellence) focus on ensuring the safety, well-being, and quality development of all children in residential education programs.

Responding to the need for data on residential education programs, CORE recently began a research program that will include survey results from residential schools. One statistic that CORE has tracked for several years is the college attendance rate of graduates from its member schools: For those who graduated in 2005, 79.5 percent were headed to 2-year or 4-year colleges.

The CORE website provides general information about residential education, as well as links to many of its member schools. Visit the website to learn more: