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September/October 2011Vol. 12, No. 7Standards for Effective Group Care Practice

Group care programs for youth in child welfare vary widely, and the differences in program characteristics and service settings are not adequately delineated when considering the role and effectiveness of group care. Rather, there has been a tendency to lump all group care together. In a new publication, Defining Group Care Programs: An Index of Reporting Standards, researchers Bethany Lee, Richard Barth, and Charlotte Bright developed measures that can examine the relationship between specific program characteristics and youth outcomes in group care. To identify the characteristics that may be important for describing and differentiating programs, a review of the literature was conducted, and an expert panel of group care scholars was convened to review the distinctions.

The publication presents a chart of possible program characteristics, along with a definition of the characteristic and possible options for each characteristic. The list of characteristics includes size of the program, population, setting and location, program model, program activities, family involvement, services offered, recreational activities, staffing, systems influences, restrictiveness, and outcomes.

The authors propose reporting standards for describing group care programs so that the relationship between program characteristics and youth outcomes can be used to guide service evaluation and development. They also discuss implications for stakeholders, including States, licensing agencies, group care provider organizations, and researchers.

Defining Group Care Programs: An Index of Reporting Standards is available on the Annie E. Casey Foundation website: (340 KB)