The El Paso County Department of Human Services is changing its practice to try and reduce the number of young people in care outside the home, or congregate care. KRCC’s Eliza Densmore reports.

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Congregate care refers to youth living in group homes and residential centers in a non-family setting. Studies have shown that youth removed from biological parents, do better in another family setting. DHS Director Rick Bengtsson says it’s not a change in policy for the department, but a change in practice and use of resources.

“If you realize that a residential treatment center can cost upwards of $6000 a month for a youth, if we could reduce those by 30% that frees up maybe a million, 2 million dollars, that we can actually take those dollars and reinvest in prevention or licensing kinship placements. Again, family-like settings that are best for kids.”

The changes are a result of a partnership between DHS and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which analyzed how children are placed in congregate care in the county. Some of the reforms include more frequent review of youth care, better identification of kinship, and better adaptability. Bengtsson says the department has already seen a positive impact.


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