The difficulties faced by residential care agencies to care for youth and families was highlighted in a cover story appearing in the December 27, 2015 edition of the Albany Times Union. Schools for vulnerable: Institutions to help are finding themselves vulnerable as well was written by TU Education Reporter Bethany Bump, and begins with 15-year-old Georgia describing the dysfunctional home life that led to her being placed at The Charlton School, a residential care facility located in Burnt Hills, NY viewed as a last-resort school for girls who’ve run out of other placement options.
The Charlton School and LaSalle School in Albany are both members of The New York State Coalition of 853 Schools that serve disadvantaged youth and families, and have been lobbying for increased tuition rates from the state to keep pace with rates set for public school districts.
The story weaves Georgia’s story with remarks from Bill Wolff, executive director of LaSalle School and board president of the NYS Coalition of 853 Schools, Charlton School educators and Mark Silverstein, president of the Coalition of Special Act School Districts. These administrators make a point of describing from their first-hand experience what methods work and don’t work with youth and families to reach positive outcomes, and the changing role of the 853 Schools in these achievements.
In Wolff’s view parents and families are essential ingredients to a youth’s success and LaSalle is key in collaborating to unite them and their communities. He said “There will be no time in the future when all of these families are perfect. There are times when poverty or other issues will cause them to turn to substance abuse or violence. They have plenty of weaknesses. And most everybody has told them how messed up they are. But we see them as having strengths, too. So we work with families aggressively on strengthening their home, because almost always, however messed up a mom or dad or whatever is, what they usually want most and what the kid usually wants most, is to be together. So imagine the battle you set up when you say, ‘No, you can’t do that.'”
The Charlton School, and LaSalle School in Albany, address challenges similar to Georgia’s on a daily basis, and youth are sometimes conflicted when it is time to set up discharge dates and a return to home and community. For Georgia, she’ll be sad to leave friends and staff at The Charlton School that she has viewed as ‘parent figures’ and ‘role models’ over the years, but she says “I’m ready to go. I really love this place so much, but I’ve always dreamt about going to a prom like a normal person would and I can’t stay here forever.”
When a new legislative session starts in January, legislation requiring the state to increase its tuition rates to keep pace with state aid to public school districts will be on the agenda.
LaSalle School is a leader in programs and services for youth and families in crisis offering a variety of programs designed to meet their needs including specialized residential placement, day service education, and alternative to detention services. The Counseling Center at LaSalle is an OMH and OASAS licensed outpatient behavioral health clinic located at LaSalle School, and currently implementing ACE treatment practices with youth and families. LaSalle is accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), and affiliated with the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA), and the national Alliance for Strong Families and Communities.