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Residential Schools: A Promising Alternative

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

In her book, Garbage Bag Suitcase, former foster youth Shenandoah Chefalo describes her childhood of abuse, followed by three years in foster care with a family that was more stable, but no more caring or supportive, than her birth family.

In her final chapter, she suggests an alternative to the standard model of foster care that is failing so many young people: boarding schools for foster youth. As an example, she cites the Crossnore School, a nonprofit residential foster care home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina that was founded in 1913.

Crossnore supports children from the ages of one to 21, and is known for accepting large sibling groups. Currently, 83 children live in 11 cottages, each supervised by professional “cottage parents,” and three new cottages are under construction, which will bring the capacity up to 110. This new “Young Children’s Village” will include a ropes-based adventure playground, which will provide a full-body workout while kids are having fun.

Crossnore residents attend the public charter school on campus along with students from the community. All students receive therapy and medical care on site. Many students receive tutoring as well. In the summer, there is a full slate of activities, including day trips, special classes like hiking and baking, and a one-week beach trip.

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