Northern Home for Boys

Northern Home for Boys was first known as Northern Home for Friendless Children, which was founded in 1853 by Elizabeth Rutter. The home was dedicated to serving children in distress. Today the home serves neglected and abused boys who are referred through Children and Youth Agencies of Philadelphia and Delaware Counties. Northern Homes is one of the oldest facilities for children. The home offers on ground school, educational and recreational programs, social workers, child care worker, medical/health care and psychological/psychiatric services.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Ms. Gale Hite, who escorted me through the various buildings, which house boys between the ages of 10 and 18. The average stay is 2 years. The mission of this facility is to reunite the boys with their families and to provide them with the essentials needed for becoming productive members of society. To accomplish these goals the boys are first welcomed into the facility by the Welcoming Committee. This committee consists of one boy from each unit. When a new boy is admitted he is assigned a buddy for two weeks to assist him in becoming familiar with the other residents.

A Social Worker is assigned to each boy and his family. The responsibility of the Social Worker is to coordinate treatment services for the child and family. Individual counseling is provided weekly and group counseling four times a week. Establishing goals and reviewing levels of achieving goals are discussed on group level. Family counseling is provided on a family by family basis.

Within the first 30 days of acceptance into the home an Individual Service Plan is developed. Goals, specific activities, services, the persons responsible for delivering these services and a time limited is stated in the ISP. A schedule of the child’s visits with parents is also included in this document. The parents or guardian and a representative for the placing agency is afforded the opportunity to participate in the development of the ISP. The ISP is reviewed every six months to determine progress in achieving the goals. All participates are invited to the review.

This facility also offers the level system, which consist of providing a consistent positive framework for setting limits in an age and behavior appropriate manner. The levels program allows room for development within safe guidelines. Positive contribution to the Northern Home’s community, school attendance and performance, and the child’s individual and group goals are weighted equally in the level program. Each group meets nightly to evaluate the progress around individual and group goals. These meetings help the boys understand each other and to stimulate the group into feeling successful.

There are five levels in the program, probation, 1, 2,3 and independent.

Probationary period is for one week providing intense focus on a child experiencing a critical time in placement.

Boys on the first four levels will use a daily point chart. Each night this chart will be added up. The total points for the previous week will determine the child’s current level, allowance and other privileges. A child must earn the number of points required to maintain that level for three consecutive weeks in order to move to the next level. Movement down a level occurs immediately when appropriate points are not maintained for the week. Movement down is one level at a time.

Life skills are introduced in the independent level. The boys attend classes that teach them how to budget their money, shop, and to help them to become independent adults. A Sexuality Course is included for the purpose of family planning.

Another positive reinforcement is the point system. Each day the boys start their day with 5 points. The boys lose point by misbehaving in school, which is judged by the teacher. All points retained each day will be added up at the end of the week and the boys have the opportunity to use their points in purchasing sportswear and school supplies from the school store.

Home visits are an essential ingredient of the overall Residential Treatment Program. A child is not permitted to visit home until it is established to be a safe environment. Approval is given by the DHS. Once it is established that the home is safe the child can go