For the kids who call R House their home, the closing of this special group home is a tragedy. For those of us who care about the welfare of these kids, it is a tragedy and a travesty (“Group home for troubled foster kids shutting down in Sonoma County,” May 2).

The mission of the Sonoma County Juvenile Justice Commission is to advocate for and protect the safety and well-being of dependent and delinquent youth in Sonoma County. As such, we feel it necessary to speak out about the heartbreaking and unnecessary closing of R House.

R House is the only group home in Sonoma County that serves foster youth with both mental illness and addiction issues. These are kids who can’t survive in a foster home. They need the long-term residential treatment that they receive at R House.

The demise of R House is just one example of the appalling consequences of a well-meaning but misguided bill (AB 403), which mandates the transformation of all group homes in California into short-term residential treatment programs.

The problem with this mandate is that some kids have been so badly traumatized or abused in the past, and have such a range of emotional, cognitive and behavioral problems, that they need stable, long-term group home treatment.

Many of these kids have already failed out of numerous foster homes. They need more than a foster family can provide.

The closing of group homes does not help these vulnerable youth at all. It only hurts them. Instead of living in a safe, stable environment, surrounded by caring professionals dedicated to helping them, the future of these kids is suddenly up in the air.

So, what is the solution?

What we need is a range of residential and treatment options that serve the disparate needs of dependent youth. We need flexibility in types of care.

We need to help young people by providing them with the appropriate care for their individual situations and needs.

Short-term treatment programs are appropriate for those youth who only require a short stay in group care before they are ready to transition to a family or foster home. But we must not take away the option of longer term, intensive treatment in a residential setting for those youth who need this kind of care.

We need R House and other group homes to stay open, not to shut down or push kids through too fast.

If this flexibility does not exist within the current law, then we need to change the law to ensure that all youth receive the kind of care they need to grow and thrive into adulthood.

Eve Goldberg and Mary Cone are members of the Sonoma County Juvenile Justice Commission. This is sent on behalf of the full commission.

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