Approximately 140 million children do not have a stable housing placement worldwide (UNAIDS, 2004). Based on the U.S. Department of Education and 2013 U.S. Census, there are about 2.5 million children who have housing challenges and are without a stable place to call home (Bassuk, E. L., DeCandia C. J., Beach, C. A., & Berman, 2014). Group homes and residential programs are a prominent model that are generally community-based, long-term interventions that support youth with contact in community, connections with family and/or guardians, and cover basic living needs like housing and food. In the United States, youth in group home residential programs are more likely to be male, adolescents, identify as a racial minority, have a range of emotional and behavioral challenges, and have prior involvement with the juvenile justice system (Li, Dongdong, Chng, Grace S., & Chu Chi Meng, 2017). In many cases, youth who are unable to live with families and thus are in group homes are victims of trauma, abuse, and negligence (Li, Dongdong, Chng, Grace S., & Chu Chi Meng, 2017). Residential programs are tasked with the crucial responsibility of providing a stable living environment for youth with tumultuous experiences in mental health and child welfare systems.
Hathaway-Sycamores, a community-based organization in Los Angeles county serving a range of youth, families and communities, has two types of residential programs known as the Transitional Shelter Care (TSC) and Short-term Therapeutic (STRTP) Residential programs. These programs are designed to support male youth who are often traumatized, neglected, and abused. TSC is designed to support youth ages 6-17 who are experiencing trauma after being removed from families or have had a placement disruption. This program provides short-term care for up to 72 hours until youth are found another housing placement such as a group home or foster home. STRTP supports youth ages 6-18 for typically up to three to six months. The purpose of the program is to engage youth and families through wraparound services and multidisciplinary teams that teach youth coping skills and provide resources to foster a healthy integration back into family, and community settings.
Children’s mental health agencies are increasingly listening to youth perspectives to build effective residential service systems (Freisen, J. B., Koroloff, N. M., Walker, J. S., & Briggs, H. E., 2011). Hathaway-Sycamores combines youth voice and strong collaborative relationships with program stakeholders to promote a culturally competent and inclusive evaluation approach. Capturing consumer voice alongside other outcome measures serves as an effective strategy to cultivate family-driven and youth-guided systems of care. The purposeful inclusion of our youth provides meaningful data that drives quality care, institutional youth advocacy, and innovative program initiatives. Hathaway-Sycamore’s use of multidisciplinary engagement teams creates an evaluative framework that offers insights into the often subtle factors such as social norms, relationships, hierarchical structures, assumptions, attitudes and expectations experienced by youth in residential programs (Thomas, V. G. and Parson, B. A., 2017). This becomes particularly important in creating and implementing inclusive and youth-driven programmatic changes to continuously evolving programs like TSC and STRTP.
Hathaway-Sycamores developed a tool in collaboration with organization stakeholders, program leadership, and youth residents to capture residential youth voices on a variety of topics. The tool, known as the Residential Personal Rights Check-in, is a survey that directly asks youth specific questions about their perspective on the residential services, staff, and individual paths to housing placements. This tool provides a powerful opportunity to capture the unique experiences among our residential youth and implement culturally sensitive programmatic changes based on youth feedback. This process also provides youth with the opportunity to express their choices and expectations in systems of care that historically have excluded their voices based on factors such as race (House, E. R., 2017). Providing an opportunity for our youth to participate in the services that directly affect them helps improve our evaluation capacities and services (Patton, M. Q., 2017).
In efforts to expand our evaluation capacities, the Residential Personal Rights Check-in is currently being reviewed by senior leadership in California’s Governing Group to possibly adopt a version of the personal rights check in as an evaluation metric across all programs. The purpose of this tool is to raise the voices and interests of relevant stakeholders across various residential contexts and program evaluations. This presentation will focus on the development and implementation of collaboration in organizations with their different stakeholders, providing a guide to the internal and external evaluations on how to successfully engage stakeholders. It is critical for evaluators to seek and incorporate youth voice in efforts to close the gap between many of the important cultural and social challenges residential programs face today.
Bassuk, E. L., DeCandia C. J., Beach, C. A., & Berman (2014). America’s Youngest Outcasts: A Report Card on Child Homelessness. National Center on Family Homelessness. Retrieved from American Institutes for Research website: https://www.air.org/resource/americas-youngest-outcasts- report-card-child-homelessness
Freisen, J. B., Koroloff, N. M., Walker, J. S., & Briggs, H. E. (2011). Family and youth voice in systems of care: The evolution of influence. Best Practices in Mental Health 7(1), 1-25.
House, E. R. (2017). Evaluation and the Framing Race. American Journal of Evaluation, 38(2), 167-189. Doi: 10.1177/1098214017694963
Hilton, L. & Libretto, S. (2017). Evaluation Capacity Building in the Context of Military Psychological Health: Utilizing Preskill and Boyle’s Multidisciplinary Model. American Journal of Evaluation, 38(3), 393-404. Doi: 10.1177/1098214016664584
Li, D., Chng. G. S., & Chu C. M. (2017). Comparing Long-Term Placement Outcomes of Residential and Family Foster Care: A Meta-Analysis. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 1-12. Doi: 10.1177/1524838017726427
Patton, M. Q. (2017). Empowerment evaluation: Exemplary is its openness to dialogue, reflective practice, and process use. El Servier: Evaluation and Program Planning, 63, 139-140. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.evalprogplan.2016.10.003
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). (2004). Children on the Brink: A joint report of new orphan estimates and a framework for action. Retrieved from UNICEF website https://www.unicef.org/publications/cob_layout6-013.pdf
Thomas, V. G. & Parsons B. A. (2017). Culturally Responsive Evaluation Meets Systems-Oriented Evaluation. American Journal of Evaluation, 38(1), 7-28. Doi: 10.1177/1098214016644069