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. 

Acute Crisis Care

Acute Crisis 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. Acute Crisis 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. Average length of stay in Acute Crisis Care is 3 weeks to 3 months. 

Youth are generally placed in Acute Crisis Care by an agency such as Youth Court, Child and Family Services, or the Yellowstone County Youth Crisis Diversion Project.  Some youth may be eligible for placement and funding under the Federal Runaway Basic Center Program.

Ted Lechner Youth Services Center in Billings accepts youth ages 12-18.

Therapeutic Group Home

Therapeutic group homes provide mental health support, stability, and supervision to youth who are struggling to be successful at home.  Therapeutic group homes in the Billings area  are in local community/neighborhood settings, as well as in a campus based setting. Specific ages served, co-ed or non-co-ed settings and the maximum number of youth living in the group home depend on the group home and agency. Each home has qualified support staff and a home manager, and is under the supervision of a licensed therapist. All homes are licensed by DPHHS.

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 private pay, Youth Court, Child 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

Tumbleweed Transitional Living Program

HopeLink is a transitional living program targeting at-risk and homeless youth ages 16-21. 

Youth voluntarily commit to at least 6 months and up to 18 months (24 months with special circumstances) working with the HopeLink staff to develop essential life skills in preparation for adulthood and success in our community. We currently operate two transitional living facilities, Chrysalis Cove and Joy’s Haven, with the ultimate goal of transitioning youth into their own apartment. HopeLink provides deposit and rental assistance, tapering off until the youth is independently managing their own finances and housing.

As a participant in HopeLink TLP, the youth will receive intensive case management, positive youth development, ongoing life skills education, job seeking assistance, counseling, and housing. They must maintain 32 productive hours a week (school, work, volunteer work, prosocial activities, etc.) in order to remain in the program and obtain employment that enables them to be financially independent.  For further info. please click here.