The RBS Reform Coalition. Reconnecting Children, Families and Communities.

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About RBS

Residentially-Based Services Reform : Overview

California's Residentially-Based Services (RBS) reform initiative seeks to transform the state's group homes from long-term congregate care and treatment, to short-term residential stabilization and treatment programs with follow along community-based services to reconnect youth to their families, schools and communities.


The California Alliance of Child and Family Services convened a workgroup of concerned stakeholders in November 2004 to reassess the roles of group homes in the public systems of care for children and youth. The diverse stakeholders' group included family members, emancipated foster care youth, child and family advocates, county and state public agency officials, representatives of the legislature, and care provider representatives.

The workgroup decided on a framework for a new system of residentially-based services that would enhance services and expedite permanent family placement for youth needing time in a residential treatment setting.  RBS reforms the way group homes are utilized in California, the range of services they offer and how they are reimbursed for these services.


In 2007, the efforts of stakeholders were recognized with the passage of AB 1453 (Soto), support of the California Department of Social Services (CDSS), financial support from Casey Family Programs, and the creation of the RBS Reform Coalition. Others, including the Sierra Health Foundation and the Child and Family Policy Institute of California, have joined the Coalition since that time.

The AB 1453 legislation authorized selection of counties that would, in partnership with private providers, implement alternative program and funding models consistent with the RBS framework document. 



California Alliance of Child and Family Services convened a workgroup consisting of family members, young adults who experienced residential placements as youth, child and family advocates, public agency representatives and provider representatives to produce a framework for residential based services reform. This Framework produced by the workgroup provides a vision for transformation that includes the following elements:

·      Transitions group homes from a structured often long-term living environment for children who have experienced multiple failed placements in foster family homes to an intensive short-term intervention tasked with returning children to their own homes or to another permanent and stable family setting in as short a time possible.

·      Offers the range of behavioral and/or therapeutic interventions necessary to overcome major obstacles to children living in their own homes or other stable family setting, including two new and critical categories of services (family support and post-discharge) which group homes are currently not authorized or funded to provide.

·      Defines a number of major RBS program features, including comprehensive up-front assessment of children by county placing agencies, matching of individual children's needs with an appropriate RBS program, family finding and engagement, along with other effective program strategies.


Guiding the process of RBS reform is a statewide leadership team including representatives of the California Legislature, CDSS, county welfare directors, the Department of Mental Health, chief probation officers, Casey Family Programs, Child and Family Policy Institute of California, the California Alliance, and others. A team of consultants was brought together initially to provide needed training and technical assistance to demonstration sites. An Executive Team makes overall project decisions, while Local Implementation Coordinators champion RBS at the county level.

The four project sites participating in this initiative are: San Francisco County; Sacramento County; Los Angeles County; and San Bernardino County.  Each demonstration site drafted a comprehensive plan for testing an alternative program and funding model to reflect a new RBS system of care which was reviewed by stakeholders and approved by CDSS.  A memorandum of understanding between CDSS and each participating county outlines the parameters of the approved plan, including implementation details, funding approaches and evaluation design.


San Bernardino enrolled their first youth on June 28, 2010; Sacramento on September 16, 2010; Los Angeles on December 2, 2010; and San Francisco on March 7, 2011. In December 2011, each RBS demonstration site prepared a profile describing the highlights of their RBS program:

·      Los Angeles RBS Profile

·      Sacramento RBS Profile

·      San Bernardino RBS Profile

·      San Francisco RBS Profile

Under the subsequent statute (AB 2129) extending pilot project authority to January 1, 2015, the testing phase spans a 24-month demonstration period that includes evaluation of client, program and cost outcomes of the model to determine the feasibility of bringing such a system to scale statewide.


Now that all four RBS demonstration sites are operational, the lessons learned from these projects will inform planning for statewide implementation of RBS reform due to the Legislature in 2015.


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