Group homes are supportive community residences with 24-hour staff designed to help people with disabilities and difficult life circumstances live as normally as possible. Group homes for children may house youths with physical disabilities, mental disabilities, emotional problems or those in transition between foster homes. The training you need to work with these children depends on the type of role you want to play within the home's environment.
Social and Human Services Assistant
Social and human services assistants work in supportive roles within group homes, helping social workers and health care professionals with both record keeping and direct client care. Social and human services assistants may be responsible for maintaining resident files, organizing group activities for children, reviewing treatment plans with family members and providing comfort. They support programs designed to meet resident goals, such as communication workshops and skill development sessions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that it's possible to start this career with a high school diploma, but most employers prefer applicants who have at least an associate's degree or certificate. Programs in human services, child and youth studies and psychology are good starting points if you're interested in work with children.
Nurses and Other Health Care Professionals
Group homes for children with severe mental and physical disabilities are staffed by nurses who help meet resident healthcare needs. A four-year bachelor's degree in nursing is sufficient to become a registered nurse. Shorter two- to three- year associate's and diploma certifications are available through community college and hospital training programs, but the BLS notes that nurses with a bachelor's degree have more career opportunities. Occupational therapists may work with kids who have either physical or mental disabilities. These professionals help children develop life skills and work around their problems using a combination of modified strategies and special equipment. Physical therapists help children with disabilities that prevent normal movement through exercise, training and manual therapy. Occupational therapists need a master's degree to get started, while physical therapists achieve master or doctoral degrees.
You may be able to work as a social worker in a group home with a bachelor's degree, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a master's in social work is the minimum requirement for most positions in health care as well as many jobs in the social services sector. In a child group home setting, social workers may work with children who come from abusive families or counsel children moving between foster homes. Public health social workers speak with kids about coping with disabilities and also offer education and support to their families.
Besides a formal education, professionals in group homes must have a sense of duty, a strong desire to help others and a great deal of patience and compassion. Communication skills are critical for working with residents, their families and health workers effectively. The Bureau says that police background checks are becoming increasingly common for social and human services workers. Since child group home employees are in close contact with some of society's most vulnerable, a police background check is likely no matter which professional role you choose.