SaintA, a Milwaukee nonprofit organization that provides foster care, education and mental health services, announced Wednesday it will close its residential program.
The organization said the decision comes as it shifts its focus to “prevention and early intervention efforts so as to reduce the need for children to be separated from their families,” according to a letter to the Department of Workforce Development and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. The program is operated out of the agency’s campus at 8901 W. Capitol Drive.
The organization said 84 staff members will lose their jobs in August when the program closes. A third of them could move into other positions at the agency. Among the affected positions are 56 residential youth counselors, five child and family therapists and four teachers.
The decision is not based on financial concerns, but rather a shift in focus, organization officials said.
“For 167 years, this organization has done whatever it takes to provide the best possible care for children in need,” said Teri Zywicki, president and CEO of SaintA. “The future of therapeutics for children in need is not in a traditional residential setting.”
The residential treatment program provides therapy, health services, recreational programming and schooling for boys ages 5-16 with serious emotional and behavioral challenges. The boys are typically referred by the state or county human services agencies and the Division of Milwaukee Child Protective Services.
Organization officials point to research indicating that children with significant emotional and behavioral needs are best served in small group or in-home treatment settings.
“Closing residential opens up resources toward family engagement, parent training, psycho-education, peer support and other trauma informed approaches that wrap around a child and family,” said Tim Grove, SaintA chief clinical officer.
The residential program first opened 55 years ago. The program serves about 30 boys, a significant decline from the early 1990s, when the program served about 135 boys.
Zywicki said the organization is creating more positions in the areas of family preservation and parent advocacy.
“We are also creating new positions to fulfill our mission of focusing on prevention and early interventiosn with families,” Zywicki said. “We hope to retain staff who have worked so hard to provide the best outcomes for our residential clients.”