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Opinion & Essays - Dec, 1993 (#25) 

Flexible Care at Affordable Prices

Northwoods Trailside School
David & Meghan Yeats
Rt. 1, Box 568
Bonners Ferry, Idaho 83805

In the past year a number of people with Special Purpose program experience have started their own home-based programs. The children placed in these programs seem to fit the general description of kids attending Special Purpose boarding schools. While it is too early to compare outcomes from these two placement options, several important advantages of home-based programs suggest they are likely to become the most viable option for a large number of parents seeking out of home placement for their child.

Some of the advantages of home-based programs are:

(1) a family is the structure with which the child is most familiar and is the structure into which most children will return.

(2) interventions can be targeted to problems in the same kind of environments in which the issues historically occurred.

(3) low staff to child ratios can be maintained at a moderate cost.

(4) children "live" rather than "receive" treatment resulting in longer lasting learning.

(5) potential for highly flexible treatment planning.

(6) opportunities for longer lasting connections between the child and the family providing care.

(7) direct communication between natural family and the child's care providers.

(8) and greater flexibility with schooling (home-school, private day school, public day school etc...).

Prior to starting our home based program I spent 2.5 years developing and coordinating a Therapeutic Foster Care program for severely disturbed children in northern Idaho. All of our placements were children who had either been in our state's most restrictive (and most expensive) residential facilities or were at imminent risk of such a placement. Without exception these children responded positively while living with their "Treatment Family." School performance improved, public risk was reduced, and relationships with their own families showed marked improvement. Based on four years working in special purpose schools and wilderness programs, I would rank the children served in "Treatment Homes" at the more severe end of those served at Special Purpose schools, and those at greatest risk of a failed placement.

The high cost of private residential programs is the greatest obstacle to families seeking placement. Most programs are charging from $3,000 to $4,500 per month and expect placements to last from one to two years. Because children placed in home-based programs share resources with other family members and the families do their own administrative work, the cost of quality home-based care should compare favorably with larger programs. While the initial cost of bringing a particularly challenging youngster into a family placement can be high (24 hr./day supervision, tutorial help, respite for the family), in most cases the challenges will subside and the cost of care can be reduced. An experienced family can offer a quality home-based residential program at half the going rate for quality Special Purpose schools.

Matching a child with an available family is the most important step in assuring a positive outcome. Networking between home-based programs will facilitate this process as well as providing support and encouragement to people interested in offering this type of program. For more information and to share information, call us.

Copyright 1993, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

PO Box 1671 | Bonners Ferry, ID 83805 | 208-267-5550
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