Janet Rich – independent child care consultant, August 2009
This paper is a practice based viewpoint grounded in the learning gained by the author from twenty years of delivering residential services to young people commonly regarded as ‘difficult to place’ or labelled as having ‘complex needs’. The main arguments presented are that residential care has a unique and valuable role to play in providing stable care and treatment options for some children and young people in care, especially those regarded as ‘complex’ and that it is often not the children themselves who are ‘difficult to place’, but the system which makes it difficult for children to sustain placements by placing them inappropriately. Finally there are questions that need to be answered about how we find the ‘best’ form of care and treatment for these ‘complex’ children.
These themes are addressed by looking at four questions:
- What is the role of residential care?
- How can residential care meet the needs of children with complex problems?
- How do we measure outcomes for complex children in residential care?
- What should the relationships be between mental health and residential care services to maximise benefits to young people?