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Why is Joshua House closing?

CHS has made an intentional shift in our services to deliver evidence-based solutions that will end the need for foster care as we know it, and keep more families safe, strong and together.

Research demonstrates that children experience the best outcomes when they can remain safely with their families. Following the evidence, we began exiting residential care several years ago to focus on delivering solutions proven to keep more children safe at home.

Today, CHS serves more than 2,500 children throughout the Suncoast Region, including the 19 youth at Joshua House.

Impact of federal legislation

The child welfare environment is going through a dramatic shift, driven at the federal level. The passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act substantially changed the way states serve kids and families in crisis, and completely changed the criteria for group homes serving children in foster care. When this act is fully implemented in 2021, residential group homes must qualify as “Qualified Residential Treatment Programs” to provide intensive services to youth who meet very specific qualifications. Joshua House does not meet the criteria to qualify as a “Qualified Residential Treatment Program” to serve this population.

Instead of waiting for the government to determine when we exit residential care, we have a responsibility to the youth we serve at Joshua House to thoughtfully develop a transition plan –in collaboration with the youth, their families, other loved ones and mentors, case managers, and partners in the community – so they can successfully move into the best possible home environment and experience the best outcomes.

Though CHS is transitioning out of residential care, there are many excellent providers that focus solely on residential treatment for youth in foster care, allowing youth to receive the care and treatment they need before moving into a family setting.

How has CHS financially supported the residential program at Joshua House?

The residential program at Joshua House costs an average of $2 million/year to run; contracts have not adequately covered expenses for the past 10 years. Over the past 10 years,  generous contributions from the Friends of Joshua House (FOJH) and the Tampa Bay Community Foundation have totaled $1.68 million to help run the program. However, even with these donations, CHS still had to cover operating losses totaling $3.5  million over the past 10 years.

While the decision to transition out of residential care was not driven by financials, we have a responsibility to our community to share the facts on the operating losses. We also have a responsibility to the 2,500+ children we serve throughout the region to invest our resources in programs that are proven to improve lifetime outcomes.

What will happen to the future of Joshua House?

The youth are our number one priority. We are working closely with our partners – as well as the youth, their families and other loved ones – to safely reunify them with their families or with relatives, to join a forever family through adoption or to join a loving foster family. Since November, we have transitioned 12 youth from the facility into families.

So we can focus on delivering evidence-based solutions to help children experience positive outcomes, CHS will sell the Joshua House campus. As we continue to abide by our 2004 agreement with the Friends of Joshua House (FOJH), we will provide the FOJH with the first opportunity to purchase the facilities.

With deep respect for our partnership with the FOJH, we are doing all we can to work toward the solution that will best benefit children.

CHS will not be leasing the property to another organization

CHS will list the property for sale. We will not be leasing the property to any other organization, nor will we be operating another program on the campus.

Did CHS purchase the Joshua House property?

Yes. CHS purchased the property in 1990 from a private seller. We remain very appreciative of the generous community support that has helped Joshua House over the years.

It’s also important to note that, while generous community support has helped the Joshua House program, CHS has also invested millions of dollars into the program. Over the past 10 years alone, we have covered operating losses totaling $3.5 million. During that same timeframe, generous donations from FOJH and the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay have totaled $1.68 million.

What’s happening with the zoning request?

The zoning for Joshua House has not been updated since it became a residential facility in the early ’90s, serving only children younger than 11 and pregnant teens. We submitted a request to amend the zoning so we could accurately reflect the current population of youth served. Because we have made the decision to close the program and sell the property, we withdrew our request.

Did you know …

Nearly 75% of children involved in the foster care system are there because of fixable family issues: untreated mental health challenges, domestic violence, addiction, lack of parental support or role models, lack of parental education/knowledge, and/or lack of access to or knowledge of community resources, from public transportation or medical care to affordable groceries or child care.

Throughout the Suncoast, CHS delivers solutions that address these very issues, including counseling, our Promoting Stability Program and community partnership schools. Serving more than 2,500 children ever year, we are preventing thousands of entries into foster care.

This is especially important because children have the best opportunities for success when they can remain safe at home. An MIT study that tracked 18,000 youth in the Illinois foster care system found that youth who remained with families deemed “at risk” had better outcomes than those who were removed from families with similar risk factors.

  • 44% of youth who entered foster care were arrested, compared to 14% who remained with their families; and
  • Among girls who entered foster care, 56% became teen mothers, compared to 33% who remained with their families.

CHS’ direction follows the evidence that shows children fare better when they can remain safely at home.

When foster care is necessary, research demonstrates that children experience better outcomes when they remain in family settings. Youth in group care:

  • Are more than twice as likely to be arrested as youth living with foster families,
  • Are at a higher risk of developing clinical attachment disorders,
  • Have a greater chance of becoming psychologically impaired and economically unproductive adults, and
  • Often exit the foster care system without joining a permanent family.

When teens exit foster care without a permanent family, the odds are already against them:

  • 38% will have emotional challenges,
  • 50% will use illegal drugs, and
  • 33% will become homeless within the first year of exiting care.

Hartnett, M. A. & Bruhn, C. (2006). The Illinois child well-being study: Year one final report. Urbana- Champaign, IL: Children and Family Research Center, School of Social Work, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. And, The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2015). Too many teens: Preventing unnecessary out-of-home placements.

As the leader in serving children and families, we have a responsibility to children — and to our community — to  address  issues before they escalate into crises leading to foster care, and we will improve lifetime outcomes for children.

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