Young people on the edge of care: the use of respite placements

Document type
Dixon, Jo; Biehal, Nina
Date of publication
1 November 2007
Children and Young People, Families
Social welfare
Material type

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This exploratory study evaluated a local authority residential respite care scheme, which was developed to prevent long-term family breakdown.The innovative service offers a series of planned short breaks (1-3 nights) over several months. The service integrates planned prevention, placement and rehabilitation services. Alongside the residential workers, the Community Support Team (CST) and social workers work with young people and parents to rebuild their relationships and develop their communication skills and avoid entry to long-term care.

This study collected data on 25 young people referred to the service and followed-up 24 of them 11 months (on average) later. Information was collected from young people and parents at both stages. Survey questionnaires and interviews were undertaken with residential workers, CST workers and social workers and focus groups were held with staff. Standardised measures were incorporated to measure change in child emotional and behavioural difficulties, family functioning and parental mental health.

The young people and parents had multiple and severe behavioural and emotional difficulties, often long-term. Difficulties became less severe for many young people, and many young people and parents felt that residential and CST staff had contributed to this improvement. However, most nevertheless remained above the clinical threshold for emotional and behavioural difficulties and two thirds moved away from home for a while (to care placements or relatives). Although one fifth (5) were likely to remain in care long-term, this appeared a positive outcome, as all had experienced emotionally abusive parenting over a long period of time.

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