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February 1980

Foster Home Characteristics and Psychiatric Patient Outcome: The Wisdom of Gheel Confirmed

Author Affiliations

From the Veterans Administration Hospital and Department of Psychiatry, University of Miami School of Medicine (Dr Linn), Miami, the Veterans Administration Cooperative Studies Coordinating Center (Dr Klett), Perry Point, Md, and the Veterans Administration Central Office (Dr Caffey), Washington, DC.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1980;37(2):129-132. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1980.01780150019001

• Even with the emphasis on deinstitutionalization, mental health services are still skewed toward hospital and nursing home care. A relatively untapped resource that is likely to receive more attention is the foster home. We previously demonstrated, in a controlled study of psychiatric patients randomly assigned to foster care or continued hospitalization, that foster care produced better social adjustment within four months. From that study, we examine characteristics of foster homes associated with the improvement in social functioning. Improved outcome was related to more children in the homes, fewer boarders, and smaller size. Too much stimulation in the environment, more supervision by foster care sponsors, and more intensive follow-up by social work staff was bad for schizophrenic patients but good for nonschizophrenic patients. Neither the sponsors' tolerance and expectation nor the cost of foster care was related to outcome. The size and composition of homes are important and attention needs to be given to finding an enriched environment that is neither too stimulating nor too sterile for schizophrenic patients.

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