Michigan Case Study 3: St. Peter's Home for Boys, Detroit, Michigan

16121 Joy Road
Detroit, MI 48228
(313) 846-6942

Operated under the auspices of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, St. Peter’s Home for Boys is affiliated with the Michigan Federation of Private and Child Agencies, the Michigan Association for Emotionally Disturbed Children, the Michigan Association of Children’s Agencies, and the National Association of Homes for Children. Its mission is to provide residential care with individual treatment for boys aged 11 to 19 who require placement outside their home.

Education Director Norbert Birnbaum notes that the Home’s services reach beyond the resident boys whom it directly serves to parents and/or significant others: "Each resident is regarded as a part of a whole which includes his family system." The Home’s mission is, of course, rooted deeply in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, with that tradition’s emphasis on the dignity of the individual as defined by explicit ethical standards.

Teachers at St. Peter’s make every effort to allow their students to return to their original home environment. When this is not possible, residents are placed in a regular or specialized foster home, or in a less structured setting. St. Peter’s describes its objective as improvement of skills in family relationships, peer relationships, educational progress, academic performance, behavior management, group participation, self-awareness, and relationships with authority. Residents receive careful individual guidance toward achieving these goals.

St. Peter’s is willing to try alternatives to the usual formulas for educating difficult-to-teach youth. Birnbaum notes that his staff, because they teach to the boys’ capabilities instead of to set academic formulas, have made academic progress with students who have failed in other settings. "Kids who did not think that they could read are now reading," Birnbaum says. "Often the standard ways of setting up a classroom or getting through to students don’t work and the teacher needs to be flexible about pedagogy." St. Peter’s ensures flexibility. "We prefer what actually works," says Birnbaum, "to any theory about what works."

A clear ethical structure provides the context for academic work. Residents earn privileges through a Merit Point System, which enables each child to increase his privileges and earn personal spending money.

"Within the structure of the program, every child has the opportunity to participate in a year round Activity/Recreation Program. For each child to prepare himself for the future, he is under the supervision of a Relationship Staff and Caseworker."

St. Peter’s does not post a per diem since individual resident needs vary considerably. Some deferral of client costs comes from government funds (Social Security, various state-level funds, etc.) and some come from private charities.