Although many eminent thinkers, including Bettelheim (1950), Bronfenbrenner (1979), Erikson (1950), Feuerstein (Feuerstein, Klein, & Tannenbaum, 1991), Maier (1987), Postman (1979; Postman & Weingarten, 1969), and Redl (1966) have emphasized the need for programs to focus on the developmental requirements of their clientele, children and youth needing alternative homes are still being placed in group care environments that are organized so as to provide an efficient combination of services at the expense of supporting youth development. Among the components typically organized in this way are:
Little thought is given to the overall way of life created by such a combination of services, or to the fact that the way of life, or lifestyle, is what determines the child’s developmental and identity-formation processes. At least in part, this is the product of the demands of the task as defined in the setting. For example, is it all right for the staff to show feelings or is that "not professional"? Are they habitually tense and brusque in their interactions, or are they usually calm and relaxed? What annoys them and what makes them happy? What is forgivable and what is not? What is regarded as important and what as trivial? If the lifestyle does not suit the child’s or adolescent’s developmental needs, the entire enterprise will not work, just as any human framework that does not match its participant’s identity needs will not work (Cushman, 1990).
What is needed, therefore, is to replace the thinking that guides the organization and direction of residential settings on the basis of the most efficient organization of services with an emphasis on organizing such settings as environments supportive of development, using the needed services as means to an end rather than as the goal of the residential setting. The organization of the right mode of life must be the focus, and every other activity of the residential setting should be subordinated to this consideration.
Bettelheim, B. (1950). Love is not enough. New York: The Free Press.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.
Cushman, P. (1990). Why the self is empty: Toward a historically situated psychology. American Psychologist, 45(5), 599-611.
Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and society. (2nd ed.). New York: Norton.
Feuerstein. R., Klein, P. S., & Tannenbaum, A. J. (1991). Mediated learning experience (MLE): Theoretical, psychosocial, and learning implications. London: Freund Publishing Group.
Maier, H. W. (1987). Developmental group care of children and youth: Concepts and practice. New York: The Haworth Press, Inc. (Also published as Child & Youth Services, 1987,9(2).
Postman, N. (1979). Teaching as a conserving activity. New York: Delacorte Press.
Postman, Postman, N., & Weingarten, C. (1969). Teaching as a subversive activity. New York: Delacorte Press.
Redl, F. (1966). When we deal with children. New York: The Free Press.
Levy, Z. (1996). Conceptual Foundations of Developmental Oriented Residential Education: a Holistic Framework for Group Care that Works. Residential Treatment for Children & Youth. Vol. 13 No. 3. pp. 70-71