What happens to those California children who have emotional and/or disciplinary problems that are too great for their parents or their schools to handle? Many of them get shipped to facilities out of state:
California offered another option – a group home with trained staff and expert support. Soon enough, Deshaun was sent to a home in Davis. It was designated a Level 14, for the most challenging children. It had a campus and classrooms and dormitories. Psychiatrists and therapists would be on hand. The $10,000 a month in costs would be borne by the family’s home county…
Under California law, public school districts must provide an education to all students who live in them. If a student has a mental health need that his home district can’t meet, then the district must pay for that student’s education elsewhere. That is how Deshaun was sent to Utah.
Deshaun and nearly 600 other California children did not end up in Utah by accident.
Today, there are an estimated 100 or more homes in Utah meant to care for and safeguard some of the country’s most troubled children – more than any other state, experts say. California has contracts with 20 of them, and it sends them a range of children who have been through California’s juvenile justice, foster care or special education systems…
California’s detention facilities grew so bad they have been all but eradicated. And its group homes proved such failures that the latest reform plan calls for drastically limiting them, as well.
The plan pushes responsibility for troubled children back to individual counties, giving them some money to help fund alternatives, though it is unclear if that will be enough.
Some counties, challenged to deliver individualized services to children at home, have come to see the financial appeal of sending away children caught up in the juvenile justice system or grappling with profound mental health issues.
“We have had an influx of kids that have mental health issues like schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder, or are just highly aggressive. And unfortunately, we just don’t have a lot of facilities here that can handle what we have been seeing,” said Amy Jacobs, deputy probation officer for Stanislaus County in California’s central valley, which sent 16 children to out-of-state group homes this past year.
“Lately, when we look to out of state programs, it’s usually because they offer more extensive mental health services,” she said.
Representatives of California public school districts, which are responsible for the overwhelming majority of the out-of-state placements, also say it’s an option of last resort. But a last resort that’s being used plenty.
It’s a lengthy article but an excellent read. Intentionally or not, though, it gives the impression that we don’t really know how to help kids with such severe problems; at most we spend a lot of money and send them somewhere out of sight.
Deshaun’s parents are an accomplished, well-to-do couple with an ability to advocate for their son. How many California children are there like Deshaun who don’t have such parents and just attend their neighborhood school? How overwhelmed is their school? How overwhelmed are the children and their parents?