This project will examine the impact of ‘everyday experiences’ on looked after children living in a ‘therapeutic’ residential care setting. Most of the children growing up in public care in the UK have experienced trauma related to physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse and neglect and are therefore at even greater risk of significantly poorer short and long term outcomes than their peers. Existing research has highlighted the ways in which such trauma adversely affects children both in the present and in later adulthood often manifesting in poor mental health, higher rates of unemployment and of imprisonment. However, there is a paucity of empirical research on what supports children to make sense of, and move on positively from such difficult beginnings. There is even less known about which elements of what is currently described as ‘trauma responsive care and education’ make the most difference – for example, is children’s recovery helped most by high quality care, or do individual therapies hold the key to achieving change? Working with looked after children and care staff, this research project offers a unique opportunity to gain insight into what everyday residential and educational practices children are exposed to and to explore how these might impact on their growth and recovery
The research questions are:
• What does ‘trauma responsive’ care and education look like in the everyday world of children living in residential care?
• Which aspects of care and education are the most effective in reducing trauma symptoms and increasing resilience and capability in children?
• How does a therapeutic framework, and associated training, support adults in providing ‘trauma responsive’ care and education?
• What narratives do children have about what has helped them to recover from early trauma?