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Loughborough hosts international summit exploring the provision of care for society’s most vulnerable children

Loughborough University’s Centre for Child and Family Research welcomed leading experts in children’s services to campus last month, as part of the Therapeutic Residential Care International Summit, funded by the Sir Halley Stewart Trust.

The three day event, running from 27 to 29 April, welcomed delegates from across the globe, to explore the current challenges and actions required to support vulnerable children and young people in residential care.

Day one (Wednesday 27 April) focused on the role and purpose of children’s residential care in the UK, and the 50+ delegates that attended included policy makers, practitioners, commissioners, academics and representatives of national charities.

The two-day international summit that followed, invited a further 32 esteemed colleagues from 11 countries, to share their knowledge and research of therapeutic residential care and how it can be used as an integral part of a child’s care journey, as opposed to being viewed as a ‘last resort’.

The summit attracted representatives from global organisations such as the European Scientific Association of Residential and Family Care for children and adolescents (EUSARF) based in the Netherlands, the Association of Children’s Residential Centers (ACRC) from the United States, and the International Association for Outcome-based Evaluation and Research on Family and Children’s Services (IAOBER) in Italy.  

The impetus for the event, was based on a widely shared view within children’s services, that residential care homes for children and young people are a ‘service in flux’ and require regular review and modification to ensure that the needs and safeguarding of individuals in care are met. 

Discussions during the summit focused on the use of therapeutic residential care for children in the care of children’s social care services, who cannot be adequately served in a foster family-based setting or in their own homes due to the complexity of their needs.  

Highlighting the issue that failure to provide appropriate services and support puts these individuals at risk of becoming involved in offending, drug misuse and of sexual exploitation; leading experts shared their views on a number of elements associated to delivering an effective service that helps individuals in care to achieve their full potential and enjoy life.

These included preparing individuals for successful transition from care, and engaging families to create and maintain vital partnerships throughout the process.

Delivery of the successful event was led by Lisa Holmes, Director of the Centre for Child and Family Research at Loughborough University in partnership with Jim Whittaker (Professor of Social Work Emeritus, University of Washington) and Jorge F. del Valle (Director of the Child and Family Research Group and Professor in the Department of Psychology, University of Oviedo).

The summit builds on the existing collaborative work between the aforementioned, including an international co-edited book published in 2014 (Therapeutic Residential Care for Children and Youth:

Developing Evidence-Based International Practice) and adds to their work in building a cross-national evidence base, of what works in residential care to influence policy and aid future planning.