Time-limited care programme aiming for a stable family homeSponsored
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
It is a sad truth that too many children in the looked-after system move from placement to placement, with an exponentially negative effect on their mental and physical health.
On the other hand, a stable family environment offers huge benefits, especially to children who have previously experienced trauma and neglect.
“Local authorities are putting children into repeated foster care placements, it is not working and they're bouncing around the system,” says Dr Fenella Quinn, clinical director at Halliwell Homes. “With every placement breakdown, the child's problems are compounded.”
When Halliwell created its Restorative Parenting® Recovery Programme, the average amount of time looked-after children spent in residential care was around three years. The programme is deliberately time-limited, delivered over 18 to 24 months, and targeted at children aged 12 and under, who have suffered trauma due to catastrophic failures by their parents or care givers.
“By entering a child onto our programme, local authorities bring the number of placements for their children right down to one with us, and then one long term home thereafter,” says Dr Quinn. “The whole point of the programme is getting them out of our homes and into a family.”
All children on the programme attend a Halliwell school from their first day of placement, unless their current provision is thought to better meet their needs. Halliwell’s education programme is also time-limited, with children supported to move from the onsite Ofsted-registered education provision within 12 months of admittance.
“That's a high expectation, but we know that in order for children to cope in a family environment, they've got to be able to cope with education, so it's an integral part of the programme,” says Dr Quinn.
On track to success
While all children have individual needs, the time limit ensures everyone involved in the child’s life is constantly focused on the end goal. “It is a good way of concentrating everyone's minds on the task of making sure that that child is progressing,” says Dr Quinn.
At the heart of the programme lies the Restorative Parenting® Recovery Index (RPRI), which allows Halliwell to track a child’s progress towards psychological wellbeing, through observations of behaviour, reactions and responses in different settings.
Every month a child’s progress is assessed against each of the five elements and their score will inform their monthly clinical consultations. Three-monthly progress meetings are supported by a progress report which includes up-to-date psychological data. “Every three months there is a concerted examination of the child’s progress with external stakeholders relevant to the child's care,” says Dr Quinn.
The time-limited nature of the programme is attractive to local authorities, as it gives a clear indication of how much the placement will cost. “Our data shows that it is highly likely a child will stay with Halliwell for just under two years, so it is worth spending that extra per week if the total cost of a placement is cheaper, especially given the trauma recovery support that they are receiving,” says David Sheffield, Halliwell Homes managing director.
There is also a wider financial benefit, as the family placements children are supported into following their time at Halliwell are less expensive than long-term residential care or multiple placement breakdowns.
Looking further ahead, children growing up in secure family environments are more likely to have positive outcomes, needing fewer state-funded interventions in adulthood.
The shorter programme also ensures Halliwell can benefit more children overall. “There is an energy driving the programme forward,” says Dr Quinn. “Research suggests it is better for children to be in a family environment. If we can treat the trauma and then move them into that, it can only be in the child's best interest going forward.”