Based on a literature review, this paper discusses the definition and features of juvenile residential treatment centers (RTCs), differences among RTCs, their target populations, and research findings from RTC evaluations.
In responding to the Juvenile Residential Facility Census - a biennial survey conducted by the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention - 900 facilities identified themselves as RTCs. The survey questionnaire asked each facility to self-report the type of facility, but the survey did not provide definitions to guide respondents in deciding their self-identification. Of the facilities identifying themselves as an RTC, approximately 58 percent reported providing counseling services to resident youth; 72 percent provided therapy services; 93 percent offered individual therapy; 92 percent provided group therapy; and 58 percent provided family therapy. The survey's lack of definition for an RTC is indicative of the fact that no standardized definition of an RTC exists; however, there is apparently a general acceptance of the characteristics of youths being sent to RTCs. They have severe behavioral and emotional problems, academic maladjustment, and substance-abuse issues. There are significant deficits in the existing literature that limit any definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of residential treatment programs. Little attention has been given to assessing specific program elements. There is no consensus in the research on a definition of residential treatment or what constitutes treatment success. Some individual RTC programs have been evaluated and found to make a positive impact on youth who received treatment services. Profiles of some of these effective programs are provided. Alternatives to residential placement are also briefly discussed. 25 references
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Date Published: July 1, 2011