Community Services

Community Alternatives to Home

Introductory Information

There are times when an alternative to living at home may be needed to stabilize crisis in a family. There are short term and long term options for alternative placements. Here we describe what each of those options looks like.


Each alternative has its own eligibility guidelines based on age, diagnosis, behavior, and reason for placement. Some are covered by insurance and others require payment by the parent or another agency. 

Shelter Care

Shelter Care offers short-term care for youth who are out of their homes due to a crisis, concern about the safety or stability of their home or who are awaiting a longer-term placement. Shelter care provides a safe, caring, and structured living environment where youth can remain connected to their community and resources such as family, friends, school, recreation, health care, and other needed supports. 

Youth are generally placed in shelter care by an agency such as Youth Court, Child and Family Services, DOC or the Ravalli County Youth Crisis Diversion Project.  

The Ravalli County Youth Crisis Diversion Project can fund youth in shelter care for up to 14 days in the Linda Massa Youth Home in Hamilton (ages 10-18) or Watson Children's Shelter in Missoula (ages 0-14). 

Wilderness Therapy

Wilderness Therapy is an intensive intervention for youth ages 14-17 to help struggling youth change direction, find motivation, build self-worth and insight, develop interpersonal skills, and better understand the connection between their actions and consequences. Youth engage in a variety of therapeutic activities, including group and individual therapy, journal writing, group initiatives, as well as an academic curriculum. Youth enter a wilderness setting for 4-6 weeks with a 2:1 youth to staff ratio. The family stays highly involved while the youth is enrolled with structured weekly sessions and skill building to prepare for the youth's return home.

The program explores several options with the families for covering cost which may include: sliding fee scales, insurance, payment by agencies involved in the youth's life, or scholarship.

Therapeutic Group Home

Therapeutic group homes provide mental health support, stability, and supervision to youth who are struggling to be successful at home. While there are no therapeutic group homes physically located in Ravalli County, Ravalli youth can still access therapeutic group homes in other communities. All of the therapeutic group homes in Missoula are in local community/neighborhood settings, though some others in the state are campus based. Therapeutic group homes in Missoula each house 4-6 youth, and specific ages depend on the group home and agency. They have support staff and a home manager, supervised by a licensed therapist.

Youth must have attempted other community services, and must have a serious emotional disturbance. Healthy Montana Kids Plus and Healthy Montana Kids covers the therapeutic component, but generally another funding source needs to pay room and board. This may include Youth CourtChild and Family Services, or Children's Mental Health Bureau

Foster Care

Foster care is a temporary option for youth who are unable to safely stay in their home for one reason or another. Foster care can be informal or arranged through the courts or a social service agency. The length of time a child remains in foster care can range from overnight to months and, in some cases, years. Youth remain in foster care until they can be safely reunited with their family, or other long term arrangements.

There are different forms of foster care for different needs. Respite Foster care is temporary care for youth and their families. Therapeutic foster care is usually long-term for youth with severe emotional disturbances.

Kinship care is an option for youth to live with relatives, or adults that the youth or family trust. Kinship care can be informal or formal depending on the circumstances involved. Informal kinship care is an agreement made between the family and a trusted adult without legal involvement. District Court, Tribal Court, the Division of Child and Family Services, or Tribal Social Services arrange Formal Kinship Care. There are times when informal kinship care becomes formal kinship care if the state or the tribe needs to insure the safety and well-being of youth.

For information about how to become a foster parent in Montana, visit the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services.

Job Corps

Job Corps is primarily a vocational program, but may be a good option for youth who are motivated to work and need an alternative/campus based living arrangement. Job Corps is a free education and training program that helps young people learn a career, earn a high school diploma or GED, and find and keep a good job. For eligible young people at least 16 years of age that qualify as low income, Job Corps provides the all-around skills needed to succeed in a career and in life. 

 Career opportunities include: 

  • Business Technology
  • Carpentry
  • Culinary Arts
  • Dental Assistant
  • Diesel Mechanics
  • Electrical
  • Facilities Maintenance
  • Heavy Equipment Operations
  • Masonry
  • Natural Resources
  • Nursing Assistant
  • Painting
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Welding

To learn more about the National Job Corps Program, click here

Montana Youth Challenge Academy

The Montana Youth Challenge Academy assists at-risk Montana youth in developing skills and abilities necessary to become productive citizens through focusing upon the physical, emotional, and educational needs of the youth within a highly structured, quasi-military environment using proven techniques of discipline and motivation to assist youth in turning their lives around.

To be eligible, youth must be:

  • Be withdrawn or transfer from high school.
  • Be 16 to 18 years old when the program begins.
  • Be a United States citizen and Montana resident.
  • Pass our physical exam and be drug free during the Academy.
  • Not be on probation at the time of enrollment (Start Day).
  • Be free of felony convictions.