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An Introduction to Residential Child Care

This page will act as only a brief introduction to residential child care as it is an area of practice that we will cover in more detail in our Caring for Vulnerable Children Course.
woman reads to a child
© University of Strathclyde

This page will act as only a brief introduction to residential child care as it is an area of practice that we will cover in more detail in our Caring for Vulnerable Children Course.

History of Residential Child Care

Residential child care has existed in various forms for hundreds of years. Mark Smith describes it as existing ‘within particular historical, cultural, political and professional contexts’. Its look and feel at any time in history has reflected the dominant thinking at that time about how society should respond to vulnerable children. In this sense the concept of ‘care’ can also be seen to be a reflection of prevailing norms as they existed at any given point in time.

What is Residential Child Care?

CELCIS (Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection) states that the distinguishing feature of residential care compared with something such as foster care, a family based form of caring for vulnerable children, is that children live with a group of other children looked after by paid staff who work on a shift basis and live elsewhere. The staff work in the lifespace of the children and young people, using this as the setting for the work they attempt to engage in.

Children living in residential establishments are usually educated in schools nearby; the exception being where education is provided on site for children living in residential schools.

In Scotland today, the largest numbers of residential establishments are run by local authorities but residential services which combine care and education are largely run by voluntary and private organisations. There are fewer residential schools than residential homes but they are generally larger, so cater for a significant proportion of children looked after away from home, and most children with disabilities placed on a long-term basis.

Residential Care Around the World

The way in which residential child care is organised and delivered varies greatly in different parts of the world.

© University of Strathclyde
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Caring for Vulnerable Children

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