Monday, February 6, 2023

The group home industry excuse machine leaps into action after still another tragedy

Two girls ran from a group home in Arizona.
Their bodies were found here.

On Jan. 7, two girls, one age 17, the other 15, ran away from a group home in Mesa Arizona. Two weeks later their bodies were found in a nearby pond. 

The only solution the operator of the group home can offer is to imply that such places should be able to be more like jails.  The lawyer for the group home said there was nothing they could do because they’re not allowed to lock young people in, but as soon as they left they called Arizona’s family police agency, the Department of Child Safety, to report them missing.  We don’t know what, if anything, DCS did. 

If that sounds familiar, it may be because it’s the same answer offered by the residential treatment industry and their media and government allies in Colorado, after similar tragedies there.  There also have been similar tragedies in Kentucky

It never seems to occur to the industry that if children keep running to the point where the only way to keep them in your institution is to lock them in, maybe the problem isn’t with the children but with the fact that you are institutionalizing them.  Or maybe it does occur to residential treatment “providers,” but to mention it would encourage people to draw the logical conclusion: that such places should be shut down. 

There are no allegations of abuse at the group home in Arizona, which opened about three months ago.  But the problem with institutionalizing children is that it is inherently abusive, inherently dehumanizing.  And an overwhelming body of research shows such places are not necessary.  Of course children want to run. 

And of course you’ll hear the usual excuses: There supposedly aren’t enough foster homes, or, to use the industry’s own offensive phrase, these children “blow out” of foster homes.  That’s just industry b.s. 

Arizona, Colorado, and Kentucky all tear apart children at rates well above the national average.  Stop doing that and there will be plenty of room in good, safe foster homes for the few children who really do need to be taken from their parents.  Then provide wraparound services, in which birth families or foster families get all the help they need to care for children with behavioral problems.  There is nothing residential treatment can do that can’t be done better with wraparound programs. 

That’s what the residential treatment industry doesn’t want you to know. 

An “advocate for foster families” is no better 

Perhaps even more offensive are the comments from someone described as an advocate for foster families.  (I’ve yet to see a story that quotes an advocate for birth families.) 

The only solution she can come up with is, well, it’s not clear exactly what it is, but it seems to involve telling authorities that, after children run away, they have to start looking for them sooner.  She told Phoenix television station KNXV: 

“I do feel like there needs to be legislative changes, with some teeth behind it, some deliverables behind it, to ensure that for each and every child that goes missing that there are procedures that are being followed and adhered to. … This is the perfect opportunity to show that these girls did not die in vain. 

But if all the state of Arizona can come up with is some cruddy little piece of feel-good legislation (even if it does have “deliverables behind it”) it won’t just mean these girls died in vain.  It will be like spitting on their graves.