In 2010, California launched a pilot project to fix one of the most troubled aspects of the state’s foster care system: youth languishing in institutional group homes. They often struggle later in life with mental health issues, lower educational achievement and a higher risk of entering the criminal justice system. Plus, these youth are far more likely to exit foster care without a stable home.
The project showed striking success at first. In Los Angeles County, home to the largest county-run child welfare system in the country, youth exited institutions and became rooted in family homes. And the project saved the county more than $7 million. This success inspired a massive child welfare reform effort in the state. The ideas in the project also made their way to federal group home reform legislation in 2018.
But the larger promise of the project never arrived. Writing for The Chronicle of Social Change, Jeremy Loudenback looks at how California’s group home reforms deteriorated and what lies ahead for youth heading into adulthood after institutionalization.
Jacob McCleary spent his high school years in a series of group homes. Now he is out. Photo by Jeremy Loudenback