• ARS AttachmentTheory
  • Efficacy of ARS AT Model
  • Our Philosophy


ARS has implemented a Group Home Program that integrates treatment with personal responsibility, intimacy, caring in relationships, and de-institutionalization of children that are close to aging out of the system. Long term placement in the foster care system, and the myriad of placements that are typical for these youth, tends to produce a personality that is dependent rather than independent.

Being raised in institutions, these youth learn to remain detached and isolated from the reality of the real world outside of their setting. It would be against their instinct to trust, develop intimacy or learn the basic social skills that are so essential to happiness and success.

The therapeutic approach at ARS emphasizes Milieu Therapy as a primary treatment modality, allowing Program staff to work with clients in all real life settings; to include recreation, school, work environment and other social environs to increase the clients comfort in the world and normalize social situations. Children phasing out of institutionalized settings will increase their likelihood of success if effort and assistance is given to:

Socialization in the real world.
Caring, intimacy and emotional connectivity are modeled and taught.
Physical affection is learned as a good thing, not punitive or a violation of boundaries. Appropriate displays of affection are modeled and encouraged.
That independence and self responsibility are fostered by relationship, respect and shared problem solving; not by manipulation, control or behavior modification.

On November 11th, 2004, ARS was honored with the Channel 10 News Leadership Award for normalizing the lives of foster youth.



Measuring outcomes has always been difficult in adolescent residential counseling programs, as the best measure of success is reflected in what foster children do with their adult lives, after they age out of the system.

Fortunately, the most objective and consistent measurement of a Group Home Program’s effectiveness is based on the most important thing; client satisfaction, as measured by client complaints to Community Care Licensing (CCL). CCL is the state agency that regulates Licensed Group Homes, enforces regulatory compliance, and safeguards the client’s Personal Rights.

It is heavily emphasized with all foster children that they have the right to call CCL 24 hours a day to report complaints against a Group Home. Once a complaint is filed against a Group Home, the complaint is logged and investigated.

This data can not be manipulated, misrepresented or falsified; once a foster child registers a complaint, it is a matter of public record. CCL’s complaint policy and procedure is designed to safeguard genuine concerns such as deprivation of food and religious services, lack of proper health care and abuse of clients. Straightforward concerns that should be corrected.

However, being raised in institutions, where foster youth learn to meet their needs from environmental availability of influential circumstances, filing a complaint with CCL has predominately emerged as tool of leverage for a foster child to:

Reestablish a locus of control that they feel has been wrested from them in an engagement/interaction with group home staff; countering some perceived coercion or unfairness.
Retaliate against a group home due to their appropriate diligence in setting limits, enforcing norms and appropriately disciplining. Foster kids know and understand that the last thing a group home wants is CCL knocking on their door to investigate a complaint.

It is these two arenas of client complaints that best reflect a group home’s ability to forge authentic, genuine caring relationships based on a problem solving partnership and mutual respect. At their angriest, at their most disturbed, and with the CCL complaint process readily available, ARS kids DO NOT pick up the phone and call Licensing.

In over ten years of operation, Associated Residential Services has delivered over 37,000 individual Days of Care, (one Day of Care is a single 24 hour period for a single client), ONLY ONE CLIENT COMPLAINT HAS EVER BEEN REGISTERED WITH CCL. That is an unprecedented performance record that no other group home in San Diego even comes close to matching over the same number of Days of Care.

Genuine, caring relationships based on trust, relational security, respect and appreciation are forged through the ARS Model, better preparing foster children to navigate through the disturbing aspects of normal life, and become societal contributors, not detractors.



Associated Residential Services embraces a distinctive philosophy in serving young people, based on three principles:

1. All people are autonomous, fully capable individuals , capable of exercising sound freedom of choice and assuming the personal responsibility to do so. That independence and self responsibility are fostered by respect and shared problem solving, not by manipulation, control or behavior modification.

2. That there is an uncommonly high regard for the child’s point of view, and that no other activity is more important than helping a child feel heard, acknowledged and validated. All clients are encouraged and expected to be involved in every aspect of their life, which includes every aspect of their program, household and relationships.

3. Children and adults, clients and staff, are both disturbed and disturbing, and that disturbance is the result of tension and unresolved conflict, not the result of a disabling condition in and of itself. Disturbing others as a response to being disturbed is always called into question, and posed as a problem in need of a solution.

Severely Emotionally Disturbed (SED) is the most common label assigned to the children we work with, and it is largely assumed that the expression of significant norm violating behaviors is symptomatic of an underlying handicapping condition.

Instead, ARS takes the position that the expression of norm violating behaviors on the part of the SED child is part of an ongoing spiral of conflict between the normative requirements of mainstream society and the life circumstances and identity of the child. ARS Views the expression of norm violating behaviors as a strategic act of counter disturbance in response to adult attempts to manipulate and control them, one method of problem solving for a child forced to cope with life circumstances well beyond their means..

Instead of arranging the program environment to avoid disturbance and manipulating the children’s choices for them, the ARS model engages children in an active problem solving partnership, nurturing the sense making qualities and interpretive abilities of the child. Staff act as guides and role models in facilitating a problem solving process, and do not “engineer” appropriate decision making through the imposition of directive conclusions and punitive consequences.

At Associated Residential Services our moment to moment work with youth is to help them examine their choices and actions in relation to their stated intentions; to help them critically reflect on their choices, not make their choices for them. Our goal is not control, compliance and conformity. Our goal is to instill a self awareness and uncommon self discipline; the ability to control ourselves when we least feel like doing it.