Anne is a social worker for Parsons Child and Family Center, an agency which provides residential treatment services to adolescents in community based group homes. Most of the adolescents who have been placed in the homes have emotional and behavioral problems that have proven to be too difficult for their parents to manage, or who can not be maintained safely in foster care. The residences are segregated by gender. Anne holds group sessions with the adolescents in each residence three times each week. These groups are called “residential meetings.” The groups vary in size, depending upon the number of residents in each house. The groups are open membership and time unlimited, although many of the clients live in the homes for about twelve months. At times there is fluctuation in membership, as clients occasionally are hospitalized, or are discharged to a more or less restrictive setting and new members are placed in the residences. The girls in one residence have recently started to act out with increasing frequency and they have even begun to engage in dangerous behaviors such as running away. This behavior can not be tolerated because it is very dangerous. Two girls, Marela and Tamika, have a history of acting out and seem to be the instigators. These two girls are at risk of being placed in a more restrictive setting. Anne has started today’s residential meeting by focusing on an event that happened the previous night. Four of the girls, Marela, Tamika, Kim, and BJ, had left the group home after dinner and did not return until the next day. Anne stated that the purpose of today’s group was to help the girls examine their behavior, to think about what the potential consequences might be, and to help them make choices. The two girls who were the leaders, Marela and Tamika, both said that they did not have to talk about anything that they did not want to talk about because Anne had told the group members on a number of occasions that they could set the agenda for the residential meetings. Anne responded that the group was for them, and that they certainly could not be made to discuss anything they did not want to talk about. However, Anne also explained that the situation in the group home had escalated to a point that if changes did not occur, it was likely that some of the girls would be placed in more secure settings where they would have far fewer privileges and freedoms. Anne said that she would like to prevent this from happening, and that she hoped the girls would make choices now that would preserve their ability to make choices in the future. Anne said that it was impossible for her to make them to behave differently, but that she would like them to take steps to reach the goals for themselves that they had talked about previously in the group, rather than having them sabotage the gains they had already made. Anne also pointed out to Kim that she had the stated goal of being a singer, and to BJ that she wanted to become a veterinarian. She poised a question to the group. How are their current behaviors going to affect their future goals? Kim began to discuss her fears about the future, and worried how her behavior might be affecting her life while Marela and Tamika simply looked on. Then, Marela and Tamika began to voice some complaints they had about the way they were treated in the residence by members of the child care staff.
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