The role and task of Residential Child Care is bound by the definitions made about its resources, recipients, partners, co-producers and communities. For example if we look at today's children's homes with the average age of 14+ and an average stay of only around 6 months then this is very different to that even up to 5 years ago, and extremely different to a European experience or account. The orientation for an 'upbringing', as in Europe, is different to that for an intervention, as in England. Clearly we have more of the latter today, though our tradition is of the former.
A European valuing and definition of the role and task brings a different situation. Two telling examples are the length of stay across Europe allowing an 'upbringing, and that the European is a mostly a graduate not vocational workforce. If we wish to achieve these ambitions we are in need of a strategy that can make the structural rearrangements necessary within Children's Services.
An agreed set of Values and Principles can act to align, contain and connect, signalling a new direction and vision for Residential Child Care being seen a positive provision for young people; children's homes as they need to be and can be.
Cultural change takes a generation. The recent past has suffered from the bewilderment that frequently has accompanied yet another 'change agent' approach. To hold to this longer timescale and renewal ambition we need a vision.
So what could be that containing and connecting set of Values and Principles for Residential Child Care?
A colleague recently proposed the following.
Public care should offer children the same as that we would wish for all children.
What we would wish for all children: an upbringing that makes sure they are loved, happy, healthy, safe from harm and fulfil their potential.
The role of Residential Child Care, of all placements in public care, is to provide a level and quality of service that supports these ambitions for children.
Residential Child Care opportunities should be a positive placement.
Residential Child Care is goal orientated, valuing each child/young person as an individual with talents, strengths and capabilities that can develop over time and with nurture.
Residential Child Care is relational, establishing strong relationships with children and young people, on the basis of jointly undertaken activities, shared daily life, domestic and non-domestic routines and established boundaries of acceptable behaviour.
Residential Child Care is ambitious, nurturing young people's school learning and out of school learning and ambition for their future.
Residential Child Care is attentive to need, attending to young people's emotional, mental and physical health needs, such as repairing earlier damage to self-esteem and supporting friendships.
Residential Child Care is outward facing, working with young people's families and communities of origin to sustain links and understand past problems.
Residential Child Care is a learning community, there are high expectations of its staff, as committed members of a team, as decision makers, as activity leaders, as empathic counsellors, and as engaged in on-going learning about their role and the young people and families they work with.
Residential Child Care is a safe and stimulating place to be, showing its care for young people in the built and natural environment, with high quality buildings, spaces that support nurture and privacy as well as common spaces, and spaces to be active.