A quality continuum of care is needed for children Monday, Jun 22, 2015 Page Image Page Content This article is written by Ken Bender, Executive Director of Boys Town North Florida. It was published June 22, 2015 at Tallahassee.com. Boys Town administrators have reviewed recent articles criticizing group residential care for kids and offer the following response.We agree that all children should grow up in families that love and support them. We also agree that the vast majority of at-risk children and youth can find stability while remaining with their own family or living with relatives, when their safety can be assured. When the needs of at-risk youth can be met through services like foster care or family-based programs, those youth should receive help in that manner.At Boys Town, we have a well-recognized foster care program. But we continually see a subset of troubled youth who need a higher level of care. Foster care cannot be the only out-of-home option for youth with emotional and behavioral challenges. When foster care fails, many youth end up in some form of negative placement like a homeless shelter or juvenile justice detention center.Quality residential care is often the only answer for stabilizing high-needs children, teaching them the skills they need for success, and helping to prepare them for placement in a permanent family. Boys Town advocates for quality residential care for these youth because it is in their best interest and gives them the best opportunity to achieve positive outcomes.We strongly disagree with critics who contend that eliminating quality residential care is the answer to cutting costs and reforming the child welfare system. “One size fits all” cannot be the approach and it is naive of some critics and policy makers to believe it can.What is needed in order to properly serve and protect these most vulnerable children is a robust continuum of care that has quality services at all levels. This continuum must be equipped to treat these children in need with the right service, at the right time, in the right place.Experience from other countries like Australia and England provide grim examples of how kids suffer when public policy goes too far in restricting effective treatment for children. As these countries dismantled their residential care systems, children began to experience more and more failed placements, were placed farther away from their family of origin, and were increasingly involved in the juvenile justice system or were homeless.We at Boys Town do not want these outcomes repeated in the United States, and we strongly advocate for quality residential care as option for our country’s at-risk children.