Residential Care:

Patterns of Child Placement in Three States

PEMD-85-2: Published: Jun 28, 1985. Publicly Released: Jul 29, 1985.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO studied residential care facilities for juveniles in three states to determine: (1) types of existing facilities; (2) the sources of funds used to support residential facilities; (3) population characteristics of the facilities; and (4) factors influencing the placement of juveniles in residential facilities. GAO classified the relevant data by state, category of care (welfare, justice, or health), and source of support (public or private).

GAO found that: (1) in two states, most residential facilities were privately supported, while the other state had equal numbers of public and private facilities; (2) most facilities in the two states were in the health category, while most in the other state were in the welfare category; (3) most facilities in the welfare and health categories were privately supported, while most facilities in the justice category were publicly supported; (4) public facilities and those in the justice category had the shortest lengths of stay compared to other facilities; and (5) the majority of children leaving residential care were released to their families. GAO also found that: (1) most facilities, including private ones, received over 80 percent of their funds from public sources; (2) higher levels of private payments for care were prevalent in the health category, while higher levels of public support were prevalent in the welfare category; (3) per capita costs were highest in the health category and lowest in the welfare category; and (4) per capita costs differed little between public and private facilities. In addition, GAO found that: (1) three-quarters of the children in the studied facilities were male, two-thirds were white, two-thirds had families with annual incomes of less than $15,000, and nearly half were between the ages of 12 and 15; (2) the majority of residents in justice facilities were nonwhite; (3) over 70 percent of the residents in health facilities were white; and (4) significantly high percentages of whites and nonwhites went to private and public facilities