The Mulberry Bush School: Specialist support for successful foster and adoptive placements

By The Mulberry Bush School

| 02 November 2015

Mulberry Bush Organisation

As a national provider of specialist residential care, the Mulberry Bush School works with traumatised children aged 5-13 from all over the UK. Our core work meets the needs of the growing number of children who are referred due to foster and adoptive breakdown as a result of their very challenging and disruptive behaviours.  Our highly trained and professional staff group provides the children with an integrated experience of therapeutic group living in four purpose built households, with on-site national curriculum education provided in our education area. Our therapies and networks team works in support of this residential ‘lived experience' and works with the children's families to strengthen the placement and to increase the chance for a successful re-integration.

Across the duration of each placement children experience the opportunity to explore and internalise healthy relationships, and to learn to live in and as a group. This is achieved through our commitment to close partnership working with families and the referring authority. Our work enables children who arrive with severe social and emotional behavioural difficulties to be integrated back into an appropriate family and school placement.
The Mulberry Bush School was founded in 1948 by the pioneering child psychotherapist, Barbara Dockar-Drysdale. She developed a model of residential care and treatment which she called "the provision of primary experience". This concept still underpins our work today.

The School continues to provide early intervention for hard to place and ‘at risk' children and their families. Our aim is to break the cycle of disadvantage they have suffered due to trauma in their early years. Recent research projects carried out by the University College London Institute of Education and the University of East London are evidencing that the early intervention provided by the school creates excellent outcomes through giving children placed positive experiences of safe relationships within a nurturing environment. Without such a specialist intervention, it becomes very difficult for a child to live in a mainstream family, school or community.

With the great patience, reassurance and skilled care provided at the Mulberry Bush, the children are gradually encouraged to a stage where, possibly for the first time in their lives, they can learn to trust and respect themselves and others, establish ordinary relationships and begin to learn. Their appetite for self-improvement then increases dramatically and the success rate of the school is very high. By the time they leave, two-thirds of the children are ready to rejoin their community, go to local schools and live a rewarding life.

The Charity also runs The MBOX Teaching School which has developed and delivers a Level-5 foundation degree in ‘therapeutic work with children and young people' to our own staff and external students. The foundation degree is accredited by the University of the West of England. Our MBOX Teaching School service also provides outreach support to schools in Oxfordshire and neighbouring areas, helping them to address the problems of children with trauma, attachment disorders and behavioural difficulties. We specialise in working with school teaching teams to help them create models of sustainable reflective practice to improve the teamwork for those who work with troubled children and their families.
As part of our charitable campaigning and lobbying, we have established the National Centre for Therapeutic Residential and Foster Care. This is an influential alliance of universities and child-centred organisations that promote high-quality practice and research.

Our mission:

‘To share knowledge about therapeutic residential and foster care for children and young people, and to support the use of reflective practice and research, in order to improve service quality, and ensure excellent outcomes'.

The National Centre also runs a research group of 50 members from across 20 universities. Since July 2015 it now also runs its own online ‘the therapeutic care journal' (

 Our charitable aim is to bring our services to more children and families, and to extend the insight and influence of our expertise and values.


blog comments powered by Disqus