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Stuart Harragan, Therapies and Networks Team, The Mulberry Bush School, Oxfordshire

Presentation as PDF Download

Working with the Families and Networks of Severely Traumatised Children in a Therapeutic Residential School

The options for looked after children – foster and adoptive homes, kinship care and residential units - are often viewed as alternatives; but some children living in these placements also attend residential schools. One such establishment is the Mulberry Bush School in Oxfordshire. The Therapies and Networks Team based at the school has developed new ways of supporting carers in these various placements to help them with the task of parenting severely traumatised children during their breaks from the school and, for some, long after they have left. The article gives a history of the Mulberry Bush and describes its theoretical orientation and the background characteristics of the children who go there. It then explores ways of achieving concordance between the therapeutic work undertaken in the school and life in the child’s family, discussing the support that carers need to ensure such congruence is achieved. Working in this way with foster carers has proved to be more difficult than it is with adoptive and birth parents and it is argued that this tension arises from their ambiguous status within professional networks. Finally, plans to assess the impact of this work on the lives of the children are discussed.

Keywords: therapeutic communities, boarding schools, residential care, foster care, working with children and families