Group homes are a relatively broad category of treatment programs that can provide essential services to young people who have an array of needs or who meet certain criteria. In general, group homes typically serve males and females between the ages of 12 and 21, though the age range and gender of participants in any specific group home will depend upon various factors, including services offered, treatment philosophy, and licensure. Some group homes are single-gender environments, while others are co-ed, with gender-specific elements.
As the term suggests, group homes usually provide services in a non-hospital environment, often one that is located within a residential neighborhood. Young people who live in group homes may receive services in the home as well as through community-based agencies and organizations.
The following are examples of individuals who may be best suited to receiving care at a group home:
- Adolescents who have completed a residential program and who need continued structure and support to facilitate a healthy transition out of treatment
- Young people whose needs do not rise to the level at which intensive residential care is needed, but who need more oversight and guidance than they are capable of receiving at home
- Teens and young adults who are required by the courts to participate in a structured re-entry program as a condition of probation or to meet the requirements of a pre-trial diversion program
As described in the following paragraphs, the benefits of most group homes can be organized into three general categories: environment, internal services, and external coordination.
As noted above, many group homes are specifically designed to look and feel different than inpatient or residential treatment centers. Though most group homes have a clinical or therapeutic element, the environment usually evokes a family-type atmosphere more than a dormitory or other boarding environment. Typically housing fewer young people than will be found at average residential treatment programs, group homes offer a high degree of personalization and individual attention. This environment is conducive to helping participants to function better within a healthy family structure and to improve their socialization, interpersonal communication, and conflict resolution skills.
Depending upon the nature of the group home and the capabilities and expectations of the adolescents who reside there, participants may also engage in such family-style activities as doing routine household chores, participating in meal preparation, earning privileges, and taking part in recreational and leisure activities with other residents and staff of the home.
The type, level, and scope of services that are conducted on the grounds of the group home and/or are provided directly by group home staff professionals can vary significantly from home to home. The following are examples of services that may be provided onsite during a young person’s stay in a group home:
- Medication management – including the safe storage, distribution, and monitoring of prescription medications
- Individual therapy – one-on-one sessions with a counselor, therapist, or other experienced professional
- Group therapy – typically involving small groups of fellow residents and led by one or more experienced professionals
- Experiential therapies – expressive arts, yoga, meditation, and similar activities that provide hands-on immersive therapeutic environments
- Recreational therapy – various activity-based opportunities that feature both a therapeutic component and introduce young people to healthy and productive leisure pursuits
- Family therapy – supervised sessions that help residents and family members to address past damage, promote healing, and empower them to function as a healthy unit
- Education – options can range from tutoring and academic support to full onsite classroom services, and may also include non-academic life skills instruction
Of course, this is not a complete list of services that may be offered at any group home. Homes that are designed for focused populations such as individuals who have committed certain legal offenses, young people who are recovering from addiction or behavioral disorders, or those who are struggling with specific developmental disorders may differ significantly in the scope, level, and intensity of services.
In addition to the specific services that are provided in a group home, the manner in which the home is organized and functions may also serve both a therapeutic and practical purpose. For example, many group homes incorporate a level system through which residents may earn or lose privileges based upon their academic performance, therapeutic progress, and overall behavior.
Depending upon a group home’s structure and purpose, residents may receive various services through offsite community-based locations. For example, while some homes provide an intensive in-house academic experience, others enroll residents in the local school district and transport them to and from school each day. Group home personnel will also work with residents’ home schools to ensure that the residents receive credit for academic progress, whether that progress was completed through an internal education program or in the group home’s local school district.
Group homes may also coordinate with a variety of other external service providers and support resources, including, but not limited to, medical doctor appointments, counseling/therapy, court hearings and probation meetings, and 12-Step support groups. The specific external services that are facilitated through any individual group home will depend upon a variety of factors, including the program’s parameters, the needs of the resident and his or her family, and licensure requirements and restrictions.
When an adolescent or young adult has completed his or her time in a group home, he or she can expect to leave with a thorough discharge plan that identifies the professional referrals, community-based resources, and other services that will support his or her efforts to maintain and build upon the progress that he or she made while in the group home.