New directions in Therapeutic Out-of-Home Care Options

New directions in Therapeutic Out-of-Home Care Options

27 May 2013

Therapeutic residential care is becoming an increasingly relevant out-of-home care option for children and young people with multiple and complex needs.

Therapeutic residential care is becoming an increasingly relevant out-of-home care option for children and young people with multiple and complex needs. It is a developing approach in Australia, aimed not only at containing the “hard cases” but also at actively facilitating healing and recovery from the effects of abuse, neglect and separation from family.

New directions in policy and planning for residential care was the focus of a recent forum hosted by The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare (CFECFW).

A key theme of the forum was the need for all residential care to be therapeutic, and the importance of developing the evidence base in this field. This means understanding and integrating the “active ingredients” of therapeutic residential care. Speakers such as Professor James Anglin highlighted the need for ‘congruence’ between systems: its not enough to have a model of therapeutic care within a residential facility, if attention isn’t paid to other organisations and institutions that play a role in the young person’s life – particularly schools.

Filmed excerpts from the Forum, including the keynote address by Professor James Anglin, are now available on the CFECFW website.

The National Child Protection Clearinghouse (now incorporated within the Child Family Community Australia information exchange) produced a paper titled, Therapeutic residential care in Australia: Taking stock and looking forward. In the paper, we identified key elements of effective therapeutic residential care provision:

  • a clearly articulated philosophy of care;
  • prioritisation of children and young people with complex needs who are able to benefit from the trauma-informed therapeutic approach;
  • a child-focussed program structure;
  • provision of a therapeutic milieu;
  • a trauma-based orientation to program design;
  • individualised therapeutic plans based on best available evidence;
  • participation of young people in shaping their care;
  • engagement with young person’s family, community and culture;
  • support for young people to exit care and plan for post-care support; and
  • underpinned by an evaluation framework and reflective learning culture.

To further the evidence base in this field, the Australian Institute of Family Studies is currently conducting a long-term research project about the lives of young people in out-of-home-care (OOHC) and their experiences transitioning from care in Victoria. To learn more about the study, see – Beyond 18: The Longitudinal Study on Leaving Care.

Definitions:

Therapeutic Residential Care is Intensive and time-limited care for a child or young person in statutory care that responds to the complex impacts of abuse, neglect and separation from family. This is achieved through the creation of positive, safe, healing relationships and experiences informed by a sound understanding of trauma, damaged attachment, and developmental needs.

Source: National Therapeutic Residential Care Working Group

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