Child Welfare League of America Making Children a National Priority


Child Welfare League of America Making Children a National Priority
About Us
Special Initiatives
News and Media Center
Research and Data
Conferences and Training
Culture and Diversity
Support CWLA
CWLA Members Only Content

Home > Practice Areas > Residential Group Care > About the Program


Residential Group Care

Residential group care encompasses a broad array of services for children with pronounced special needs. Residential services are highly flexible and provide for varying lengths of stay, based on the client's needs. Length of stay may range from a short respite due to tense family situations, to long-term therapy for problems such as drug or alcohol addiction. Although long-term stays in family-like community-based group homes best serve some children's individual needs, residential group care is usually a temporary placement. Many children in residential care have emotional or physical conditions that require intensive, on-site therapy; others receive services from day treatment programs in their communities. Residential care programs are highly flexible and are designed to meet each child's individual needs.

Types of Residential Care Programs

  • Apartments
  • Campus-Based Group Homes
  • Emergency Diagnostic Shelters
  • Emergency Shelters
  • Mother & Infant Programs
  • Self-Contained Settings
  • Secure Settings
  • Specialized Programming

Characteristics of Children in Residential Care

Although children enter residential care for various reasons, many are characterized as having special needs. These children may have experienced multiple out-of-home placements, suffered from abuse and neglect, or have behavioral and emotional problems.

The most common reasons for residential care placement include abuse, neglect, behavioral acting out, status offenses, pregnancy, family crisis, and substance abuse. Placement may also be needed due to physical and/or mental disabilities; to attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (AHDHD); or to mental illnesses such as depression, conduct disorder, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and psychosis.

Guidelines for Quality Out-of-Home Care Service Delivery

  • Provide quality services after a thorough family assessment and "reasonable efforts": have been made to maintain the family; and/or professional judgement has been made that a child would best be served in out-of-home care.

  • Provide children with a safe, nurturing, protective, therapeutic environment that respects their cultural and ethnic identities while addressing their unique educational, developmental, medical, and emotional needs.

  • Help families marshal their strengths to reduce or eliminate the conditions or conduct that led to out-of-home care.

  • Enable children and parents to establish relationships leading, if possible and appropriate, to family reunification.

  • Prepare children and their parents for permanent placement alternatives to reunification after reasonable efforts to return the child home have been found to be unwarranted or unsuccessful.

  • Help older youths leave out-of-home care with adequate skills, connections to family, as well as the economic, emotional, and social supports necessary to allow for a successful transition to independent living.
  Best Practice Guidelines for Behavior Management

Child and Youth Care Worker Certification

National Center for Professional Certification - Informational Package for Agencies
Currently there are both state and national efforts for the professional credentialing of child and youth care workers. This site includes links to those states and organizations which have websites. The following are states and organizations that currently have efforts in progress:
Child and Youth Care Worker Certification Institute of Texas
Maine Association of Group Care Providers Professional Development
National Resource Center for Youth Services
Ohio Association of Child and Youth Care Professionals

National Definitions and Data Collection for Residential Care Facilities' Restraint and Seclusion Use

Download this document

Child & Youth Care Workers Training Resources

This site provides information on organizations offering training curricula for residential child and youth care workers and training resources. This site should prove helpful in a variety of training needs for residential child and youth care workers. Additionally, this site provides links to the organization's website. The following are organizations currently offering training curricula for residential child and youth care workers:
"Connecting," Child Welfare Institute
National Resource Center for Youth Services

Mapping a New Direction: Forging Collaborative Partnerships to Support Family-Focused Out-of-Home Care

"Mapping a New Direction: Forging Collaborative Partnerships to Support Family-Focused Out-of-Home Care" is an initiative supported by a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The goal is to advance child welfare practices by strengthening collaborative relationships between public and voluntary agencies. CWLA staff members will develop 'how-to' practical strategies for successful collaboration; prepare a series of monographs which illustrate emerging public/private partnerships; provide on-site consultation, technical assistance, and program evaluations; and assist state, county and local leaders to plan and convene forums for key community constituents involved in service delivery for at-risk children, youth and families.

CWLA provides ongoing support to an emerging public/private partnership initiative being implemented by two member agencies in the state of Iowa (Blackhawk County Iowa, Department of Human Services and Four Oaks, Inc.). CWLA staff also provide technical assistance to numerous other sites as requested.

The Odyssey Project

The Odyssey Project has grown from a modest request for research assistance from a member agency into an important national study of out-of-home care. Participants include children and youth who entered residential treatment or therapeutic foster care during the first four years of data collection. Subjects were assessed as they initially obtained services, and were reassessed annually and at discharge; participants continue to be assessed six months, one year, and two years after discharge from care. Twenty-two CWLA member agencies have contributed data to the project.

The National Survey of Public and Private Group Care Facilities and Their Licensed Capacities

The Child Welfare League of America's Residential Care Division conducted its first national survey to determine the total capacity of both public and private residential group care facilities. The public and private residential group care facilities included in the study provided services to the following populations: Child Welfare; Juvenile Justice; Mental Health; and Developmentally Disabled. The major reason for conducting the survey was the increasing realization that no survey of this magnitude had been successfully completed and that no one knew the size and scope of the field. The goal of the survey focused exclusively on collecting data on the number of facilities and their licensing capacity.
Click here to read about the survey


The outcome of the survey consists of two major items:
  • First is the number of facilities in each state based exclusively on the information received from the states.

  • Second is the total licensed capacity in each state based on information received or, where no information or partial information was received, estimates from earlier studies.
Click here to view the outcome
For more information about CWLA's Residential Group Care program contact Tim Briceland-Betts, 202-688-4154 or

 Back to Top   Printer-friendly Page Printer-friendly Page   Contact Us Contact Us




About Us | Special Initiatives | Advocacy | Membership | News & Media Center | Practice Areas | Support CWLA
Research/Data | Publications | Webstore | Conferences/Training | Culture/Diversity | Consultation/Training

All Content and Images Copyright Child Welfare League of America. All Rights Reserved.
See also Legal Information, Privacy Policy, Browser Compatibility Statement

CWLA is committed to providing equal employment opportunities and access for all individuals.
No employee, applicant for employment, or member of the public shall be discriminated against
on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or
any other personal characteristic protected by federal, state, or local law.