Findings from our community needs assessment and related research strategies will form the basis of the specific services and programs we will provide at YHPE (or Y.P.E.). Ecosophy and Confucianism are the driving systems that tie respect for nature with the character-building among our primary stakeholders. Our Humacy model supports integrating behavioral norms with virtues and character traits for both staff and participants. A modified restorative justice model will help guide clients about the importance of responsibility, accountability, and consequences. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Choice Therapy are the preferred therapeutic interventions, while an earth-care ethic will guide our climate impact initiatives and plans. Our permaculture, sustainability, and organic farming approaches are the source of our nutrition and learning business practices. Placement services will ensure that the clients we serve are getting the best off-site care possible. The entrepreneurship, education, and training will provide opportunities for inter-generational exchange in and out of the Village. The recreation and the arts (music, for example) will help to keep all members healthier and adequately entertained.
The Executive Director highly favors Self-Help models so that specific clients can learn to apply the principles and techniques to better themselves over the course of their lives. Some examples of them are reflections, the sit-spot, and Know your philosophy. Finally, staff will be trained in the art of life & character coaching and group facilitation.
Our social systems are also therapeutic. These systems include Restorative Justice, Normative Culture, and the Humacy Model as noted above. Objective Reality techniques and Consequences are strongly aligned to these approaches and will be an integral part of the operations at Y.P.E.. Not mentioned, but essential is the practice of Positive Discipline (along with Restorative Justice.) Internal evaluations of the effectiveness of these approaches will determine how best to refine them into a coherent system for improving attitudes, behavior, and performances.
The Basis for this New Model
Dr. Kendall's (2014) Ph.D. study: Understanding Effective Models of Group Care: Enhancing Foster Care Group Home Services for Homeless, Abused, and Runaway Children, became the impetus for transforming a congregate-care program or group home into an intentional community. His methodology included a purposive sample and a triangulation approach. He reached out to 241 organizations and enrolled seventy-seven respondents—50 program staff personnel and 27 agency personnel and advocates. It is worth noting that staff believed that staff training was the most critical factor in making group homes successful, while agency personnel (and advocates) thought focusing on family reunification was the most vital factor. Meanwhile, for group homes to be effective, both respondents had a high agreement in their survey that "physical and sexual assaults need to be prevented." As one can see, each group of respondents proposed their best practices, concerns, and recommendations. Dr. Kendall analyzed responses from over 150 survey questions and evaluated over 8,000 words and comments that led to the development of the top-ranked survey questions (see Chapter IV, which includes the study's top results from twelve Surveys, pp. 81-107) and the "Matrix of Best Practices and Recommendation" (2014, p. 89). Even with the new public law governing foster care services, the substance of his study is still relevant.
In addition to the seventy-seven adult respondents, eight former foster care, homeless, and runaway youths functioned as the study's focus group. The focus group (the former recipients of services) reviewed and discussed among themselves the findings and recommendations from the adult respondents and proposed their top seven recommendations for improving group homes:
1. "The staff must advocate and support group home members.
2. "Education and schools are the keys to a successful future.
3. "Support Services of all types are needed to help and benefit at-risk youth to become responsible and accountable persons.
4. "Caring for adolescents must be a top priority, and homeless youth must be fully recognized as a full person with feelings, aspirations, history, and purpose in life.
5. "Staff needs ongoing training that best addresses the clients' most pressing concerns, with respect being one of them—to teach respect is also to role model respect.
6. "The needs and interests of the clients must receive the closest and consistent attention.
7. "Social teaching (such as manners and character) is central for getting ahead in life" (Kendall, 2014, p. 103).
The Focus Group's critique of the respondents' recommendations served as Y.P.E.'s core values for generating a successful congregate-care program at Youthaven Public Ecovillage.
The following three questions were central to the study:
1) What are the best practices for improving the safety and home placement in foster care group homes for emancipating, homeless, and runaway youth?
2) What suggestions can be offered to improve the outcomes that result from a weak foster care group home model?
3) What are the philosophical factors that may support an effective or successful residential program?
From the adult respondents, their Recommendations and the Matrix of Best Practices are the best summaries in the study for answering the research's first and central question, as noted above. The study essentially concludes that a youth congregate care program needs to design its operations based on these recommendations and matrix. The matrix includes thirty essential factors divided under six headings—Advocacy, Youth Development, Three Cs of Holistic Thinking (care, compassion, and connectedness), Critical Thinking, Empowerment and Accomplishments, and Social Development: the short acronym is A.C.E.D.
In addressing the second research question, we turn our attention to the efforts of the Focus Group. Their recommendations can help both new and existing youth congregate care programs meet the funding source's goals or exceed their expectations. Their recommendations also listed five categories to improve a group care residential program or ensure the success of a new start-up program such as Youthaven Public Ecovillage. In ranking order of importance, these categories include the following:
1) generate more activities,
2) youths [need to be] more productive,
3) respect [means] showing mutual regard for all life,
4) include youths in deciding the rules and norms of the program, and
5) have specific programs designed for formerly incarcerated youths enrolled in the program.
The focus-group members provided a concise description for each of these categories to ensure that the staff could develop and manage a robust program (Kendall, 2014, p. 102).
Only adult respondents had to respond to the surveys about philosophy. In response to survey questions, the staff and agency respondents had varied opinions on the top three approaches for supporting the success of a group home. The staff's top choice was that "Harmony, acceptance, patience, compassion, empathy, and stakeholders' shared decision-making are vital." Meanwhile, the agency respondents' top choice was that "A mutual relationship of reasonableness, positive beliefs, and sympathy between staff and participants is needed for wellness" (Kendall, 2014, p. 88). Harmony is the central theme among the staff, while reasonableness is most important for agency personnel. Kendall's finding aligns closely with Barasch's report on the results by the HeartMath researcher and biophysiologist Rollin McCraty heart-brain study. In addition, many of the adult respondents in the study worked at successful residential programs, which may have added to have similar results. Also, specific responses had central themes vital to the vision at Youthaven Public Ecovillage. Some of these responses included that (1) a successful group home should be therapeutic, (2) ethics plays a meaningful role in the youths' personal and social development, and (3) that, according to one respondent, "one's ultimate concern [reverence for self and values beyond measure] should be incorporated and supported in each ... youth's life plan" (Kendall, 2014, p. 127).
One of the unique aspects of Youthaven is its approach to reversing homelessness. The literature provides extensive coverage of homelessness around the country, and when we include the issue of refugees, the number of victims without safe living quarters soars. The board wants to address this issue among our clients by providing selected youths emancipated from our organization with permanent homes on our property, thus he reason for five or more acres (although 35 to 50 acres will better address our needs while 100 acres will be ideal). Moreover, they will also inherit ownership rights at Lika Landing, similar to living in a condominium based on ecosophy, sustainability, and human interactions principles.