How restorative parenting is helping children in care recover from trauma

Annette Rawstrone
Friday, June 14, 2019

Suffering the trauma of abuse, loss or rejection severely impacts on a child's ability to develop both socially and emotionally and therefore achieve their full potential.

Picture: IdeaBug, Inc./Adobe Stock
Picture: IdeaBug, Inc./Adobe Stock

At Halliwell Homes it is firmly believed that children in the care system can recover by living in a therapeutic environment where they encounter therapy through a "lived experience" using the model of Restorative Parenting®

Halliwell Homes is the leading provider of the Restorative Parenting® Recovery Programme which is aimed at looked after children who are aged 5 to 12 years on admission to the Programme. For many mainstream foster or residential care has failed to meet their needs.

These children have often suffered continuing rejection which has profoundly affected them to the extent that they have adapted to cope without the warmth, nurture and love of a consistent carer.

"Children come to us with the trauma of rejection and with their natural propensity to grow and develop undermined by their negative experiences. It takes a long time for them to find belief in themselves and others because they are waiting for the next rejection," explains Therapeutic Parenting Director Judith James.

The Restorative Parenting® Programme is informed by psychological and neurological understanding of the impact of trauma.

"We bring together our children's homes teams, our registered schools, our clinical team and our learning and development team to wrap around the needs of the traumatised child. The programme's success emanates from bringing together clinically informed consistency across education, guided therapeutic re-parenting and supporting the child to make lifestyle choices that are more psychologically satisfying," says James. "When all these elements combine, the process of psychological growth can take place."

At Halliwell Homes, children are welcomed into a therapeutic residential environment which encourages a feeling of belonging, warmth and homeliness. A consistent, caring relationship between the child and staff is essential. It is important for the child to develop an understanding that acceptance and trust is genuine and reliably available. The residential carers are developed as therapeutic parents whose task is to repair the damage that the child has sustained through neglect, abuse or lack of stability.

Each child has a personalised programme developed around their competencies, strengths, attributes and interests. They are encouraged to engage in activities in the community - from drama classes to caring for animals - for enjoyment and to develop social skills while gaining a sense of achievement.

"We want to help our children be children - exuberant, playful and exploring, and engaging with people. These are the most natural things in the world for the majority of children," says James.

Within the programme children are supported to achieve milestones in their recovery. For instance, moving from a Halliwell school to mainstream school when the time is right for them. The normalisation of being alongside non-looked after children in a local school helps them to gain social confidence, see the improvement they have achieved and motivates them to want to move to fostering (or kinship placement). "If a child is able to sustain a school place then the likelihood of a foster placement lasting is dramatically increased," James adds.

Progress in psychological recovery for each individual child using the Restorative Parenting Recovery Index is monitored monthly by Halliwell's clinical team. The index measures are underpinned by five elements needed for emotional growth and developing resilience:

  • Self-care
  • Forming relationships and attachments
  • Self-perception
  • Self-management and self-awareness
  • Emotional competence.

"Our work is guided by the model and our team of psychologists who help individualise the delivery of Restorative Parenting around the individual child's propensity to change. We monitor and evaluate the children's progress and utilise this information to understand what more we can do to promote the child's recovery."

"Ultimately, our children need to be equipped to positively engage with society," explains James.

Last year the Restorative Parenting® Recovery Programme delivered outstanding outcomes for children placed in Halliwell Homes. On average, they:

  • took 24 months to complete the programme
  • successfully moved to mainstream schools after 12 months
  • achieved 99 per cent school attendance during the school year
  • achieved above average attainment levels.

All the children who completed the programme made a successful step down to fostering or kinship placement.

"Our raison d'etre is that children are in residence with us for as short a time as necessary," says James. "We want them to gain resiliency in psychological growth, resilience in their self-belief and resilience in their social skills so that there is something to build on when they move to their foster family."

Further information

To find out more about placing a child on the programme contact: or 0161 278 2531

  • Healing Child Trauma Through Restorative Parenting by Dr Chris Robinson and Terry Philpot (Jessica Kingsley Publishers)

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