Residential group youth homes provide therapy, 24-hour supervision and support to troubled and disturbed teenagers who require intensive counselling and a supportive environment. Group sizes tend to be small and the length of stays tend to several months. The staff require training to work in such a challenging and potentially confronting environment.
Teenagers can struggle with mental health issues arising from physical, sexual and psychological abuse from family issues, eating disorders, drug dependence, bullying, social ostracisation, learning difficulties and loneliness. This can manifest in a variety of ways such as self harm, extreme introversion, violence or other socially dysfunctional behaviour.
Group homes are sometimes intermediate transitions between a highly secure level of residential care such as a psychiatric hospital or a juvenile detention facility with the ultimate goal being returned to the family (or foster) home if it is deemed desirable.
The schedule for group home residents is structured to include active participation in therapy as well as school and learning activities. Clear rules and consequences are enforced by staff to create a safe environment that helps teenagers to create positive changes. Residents can also attend local public schools with group home staff maintaining close contact with teachers to monitor behaviour and academic progress.
While living in the group home, privileges are typically earned through a token, level or reward system. Teenagers can earn privileges such as internet or game time or opportunities to go on outings in return for positive behaviour. Teenagers living in a group home are encouraged to be actively involved in the day-to-day running of the group home, such as shopping, cleaning, laundry and preparing meals.
In its residential setting, the group home provides opportunities for teenagers to learn new skills, monitored and supported by staff who provide ongoing mentoring. The end result should be improved self-esteem and encouraging residents to be accountable for their behaviour.
Some group homes can offer specialised treatment for specific conditions such as autism, substance abuse or inappropriate sexual behaviour.
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Broken Homes - On the Frontline of Australia’s Child Protection Crisis
A Four Corners investigation into residential group homes has found some of the country's most damaged children are still being placed in danger. Now, it's not state institutions in the spotlight, but private providers, beneficiaries of a multi-billion-dollar taxpayer-funded industry.
Therapeutic residential care: An update on current issues in Australia
Therapeutic residential care is a relatively recent development in out-of-home care service provision for young people who are unable to be placed in family-based care. This paper provides an update on developments in therapeutic residential care, discusses the implications of these developments, and touches on further issues and dilemmas that should form the focus of research and practitioner partnerships in the future.
Brisbane Youth Service Inc v Beven  QCA 211
This difficult case was concerned with the duty of care and the appropriate boundaries between a troubled former youth and a counsellor, and the degree which the respondent incurred a major depressive disorder as a result of an unwanted sexual advance.
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