The narrative on residential child care over the past 12 months has been overwhelmingly positive: a government-commissioned review backed the vital role it plays in supporting particularly troubled young people, the latest round of Ofsted inspections found a large rise in the proportion of homes rated "good" or better, and there have been policy initiatives that promise to improve standards further.
This positive outlook, however, is tempered by increasing evidence that the residential care market is not working financially and could be on the verge of crisis. In addition, questions are being raised over whether local authorities have the budgets to invest in children's home places providing intensive support to meet young people's increasingly complex needs.
With the number of children living in residential child care on the rise and increased emphasis put on making homes therapeutic and caring environments, there are signs that the sector could lose its tag as being the option of last resort.
For that to happen, policymakers must find a way of bringing home operators and councils together to develop additional high-quality, financially sustainable provision.
CYP Now's special report on residential child care assesses latest policy developments, summarises recent research shaping the sector and highlights four examples of innovative practice delivered by a range of providers.
Click on these article links for more:
Residential Child Care: Policy Context
Residential Child Care: Research Evidence
Children and young people in residential care have often experienced adversity and trauma. The ways in which young people attribute different meanings to these experiences affect their identity and resilience throughout childhood and into adulthood. This is exemplified in the article by Schofield and colleagues, who highlight the importance of staff in residential care building trusting and enduring relationships with young people. Peer relationships are also important in providing young people with social support and a sense of belonging, as highlighted by Edmond. However, opportunities for developing these relationships outside of the residential or school setting can be limited, as shown in the article by Schwartz.
The final article by Johnson and colleagues considers self-harm amongst young people in residential care and staff responses to this. Again, this paper stresses the importance of good relationships and staff support in helping young people who have self-harmed.
Risk, Resilience and Identity Construction in the Life Narratives of Young People Leaving Residential Care
Putting the child at the centre of inter-professional co-operation in out-of-home care
Residential Staff Responses To Adolescent Self-Harm: The Helpful And Unhelpful
Longing To Belong: Children In Residential Care And Their Experiences Of Peer Relationships At School And In The Children's Home
The Mulberry Bush School
No Wrong Door
Resilient Care Home Team
Derbyshire social pedagogy