Group (Congregate) Care Services

  • Description
  • Funding History
  • Proposals

Group Care Services funds the Department of Children and Families' (DCF) contracted congregate care programs, including residential and group care placements. A further provision allocates funds for intensive community-based services for children who would otherwise be placed in congregate settings.

Congregate care programs are utilized for children with needs that cannot be met in other placements – home, kinship placement or foster care. There are three main variations of congregate care in Massachusetts: 1) Stabilization and Rapid Reintegration (STARR) programs are short term placements for emergency situations or assessment; 2) group homes for children who need specialty care; and 3) long term residential placements for children who need a higher level of safety than can be provided in a foster or group home. Long term facilities may also have sub-specialties such as services specifically designed to care for children who have been sexually abused.

In 2005, DCF introduced a new model of care, "Family Networks." Based on DCF's six core values, Family Networks increases child and family participation in the process while striving to keep families together. DCF's new Integrated Casework Practice Model (ICPM) continues this aim by redesigning DCF's practices to better align with child permanency and family strengthening goals. Through ICPM, DCF introduced differential response which creates multiple tracks for families. Families involved in initial assessment cases no longer have a perpetrator (often a male family member) identified and blamed. This allows DCF to work more collaboratively with families to build strengths and keep children at home.

DCF has increasingly emphasized community based solutions to keep children at home. Providing services to children and families in their own communities is balanced with DCF's child protection mission. As part of this policy shift, DCF uses funds in this line item to provide intensive in-home support and stabilization services. Area review teams evaluate the feasibility of maintaining the child in the community wherever possible.

At the end of the FY 2013 second quarter, 1,659 children were in a congregate care placement, over 20 percent less that in the FY 2009 second quarter. However, the number of kids in congregate care increased to 1,873 by the end of the FY 2014 third quarter, an increase of over 10 percent in a little over a year. That increase has continued with 1,915 kids in a congregate care placement at the of the FY 2015 first quarter.

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