Level 14 Group Homes for Juveniles in California

youth handcuffed
Level 14 group homes provide psychiatric services to seriously emotionally disturbed children.

Level 14 group homes provide psychiatric services to seriously emotionally disturbed children. They are the most restrictive out-of-home placement in the current California foster home system.

Under Welfare and Institutions 5600.3, seriously emotionally disturbed children are defined as:

Minors under the age of 18 years who have a mental disorder, other than a primary substance use disorder or developmental disorder, which results in behavior inappropriate to the child's age according to expected developmental norms.

To qualify for placement in a level 14 group home, a youth must meet:

  • Criteria 1 requirements, AND
  • at least one of Criteria 2.

Criteria 1


Due to a diagnosed, DSM-5 mental disorder, the child demonstrates substantial impairment in at least two of the following areas:

  • age-appropriate self-care,
  • family relationships,
  • functioning in the community,
  • school performance.

Criteria 2


At least one of the following has occurred:

  • the child has been placed, or is expected to be placed, in out-of-home care,
  • the mental disorder has been present for more than six months,
  • the mental disorder is likely to continue for more than one year without treatment.

The child demonstrates at least one of the following:

  • a history of psychiatric hospitalizations,
  • history of psychotropic medication use,
  • history of substance abuse,
  • psychotic symptoms,
  • risk of suicide,
  • risk of violence,
  • special education eligibility requirements.

The child has a suitable placement order or an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).


Please note that in addition to Level 14 group homes, children requiring psychiatric treatment can also be placed in suitable placement such as:

  • community treatment facilities (CTF's),
  • skilled nursing facilities, and
  • psychiatric health facilities.

Children in psychiatric facilities normally have an IQ of 70 or above. These facilities are not meant for youths that are intellectually impaired.

What is a Licensed Group Home in California?

Group homes are regulated by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS). A licensed group home is defined as:

A facility of any capacity which provides 24-hour nonmedical care and supervision to children in a structured environment, with such services provided at least in part by staff employed by the home.

CDSS classifies group homes by levels. The levels range from 1 to 14, and are classified based upon:

  • the level or intensity of care, AND
  • the services provided by the home.

The higher the number of hours provided per child in three service areas, the higher the rating. The three service areas are:

  • Childcare and Supervision,
  • Social Work Activities, and
  • Mental Health Treatment Services.

The highest two classification levels, 13 and 14, are required to provide intensive psychiatric services.

What Types of Services are Provided by Group Homes?

Some group homes are small, home-like places. They utilize a house parent model. Other group home are large, institution-like facilities. The large facilities are called residential treatment centers. Group homes often offer specific services for minors with specific needs. These services include:

  • substance abuse treatment,
  • minor-parent education, (mothers and babies),
  • mental health treatment,
  • vocational training,
  • mental health day treatment,
  • sex offender treatment,
  • wards only,
  • emancipation and reunification services.

Many programs have as a primary goal the reunification of children to the biological family. A high number also list the emancipation of the child as a primary goal.

What Are Short Term Residential Treatment Programs (STRTPs)?

California group homes and residential treatment programs are going through big changes. In 2015, AB 403 was passed by the California Legislature. It is known as the California Continuum of Care Reform Act (CCR). Under CCR, most residential treatment facilities and group homes will be converted into STRTPs. STRTP stands for Short-Term Residential Treatment Programs.

STRTPs will serve children who have serious mental health needs. These STRTPs will provide mental health services that include:

  • clinical assessment of mental health needs,
  • mental health services in daily programming,
  • individual, family and group therapy,
  • medication support services.

Per CDSS regulations, a child may only be placed in a STRTP for six months. Further review is required to continue placement in the facility. For children 12 and older, reassessment must be done every six months. If the child is under 12, a new assessment must then be conducted every two months.

The goal is to reduce long-term placement of children in these treatment facilities. As soon as the mental health issues have stabilized, children can be moved to a family placement.

Level 14 group homes have been granted extensions in complying with the STRTP requirements.

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