Residential Care:

Some High-Risk Youth Benefit, But More Study Needed

HEHS-94-56: Published: Jan 28, 1994. Publicly Released: Jan 28, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed residential care programs that provide comprehensive long-term help for at-risk youths, focusing on: (1) whether residential care programs effectively prepare youths to lead self-sufficient, productive lives; and (2) the key program characteristics necessary for mitigating high-risk behaviors in young people.

GAO found that: (1) the effectiveness of residential care programs cannot be adequately measured because of limited information; (2) program officials believe that residential care can be a viable treatment for high-risk youths; (3) although residential programs differ greatly in size, setting, and treatment approach, 11 key program elements are common to all programs and enhance the programs' ability to alter high-risk behavior; (4) a particularly important program characteristic is establishing an effective link between community-based services that support high-risk youths and their families after the youths leave residential care programs; and (5) additional studies are needed to determine the best type of treatment setting for high-risk youths and the effectiveness of residential treatment over the long-term so policymakers can make sound, cost-effective decisions on the most effective mix of residential care programs.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Action is not intended.

    Matter: If Congress decides that the federal government should reexamine its financial support for programs serving at-risk youth, it should consider earmarking funds for rigorous evaluations of residential care and other treatment approaches for this population to determine what kinds of programs work best for which youths.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress has not initiated action on this recommendation, and the Committee contact told GAO that it is unlikely that Congress will act on this in the foreseeable future.

    Matter: If Congress decides that the federal government should reexamine its financial support for programs serving at-risk youth, it should consider earmarking funds for rigorous evaluations of residential care and other treatment approaches for this population to determine the appropriate place of residential treatment on the service continuum.

 

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