residential childcare: what is a looked after child
7 min read/Published On: June 25, 2024/1361 words/

Residential Childcare: What is a Looked After Child?

Residential childcare is a form of group care provided for children who cannot live with their families. These settings can include foster care, children’s homes and residential schools. These facilities aim to provide a therapeutic environment where vulnerable children receive individual attention, support, and education tailored to their personal experiences and challenges. Moreover, the goal is to create a stable and nurturing environment that helps prepare children for a successful transition to adulthood.

What is a Looked After Child?

A “looked after child” refers to a child placed in the care of the local authority. Whether through voluntary agreement with parents or by a court order. This term encompasses those in foster care, living in children’s homes, or also those receiving care under other residential settings. Many of these children have experienced significant trauma. This includes physical and sexual abuse, neglect, or other forms of maltreatment. Therefore meaning they require support from well-trained, compassionate residential childcare workers.

What is a Residential Childcare Worker?

A residential childcare worker is a trained professional who cares and supports children and young people living in a residential care setting.

Residential Child Care Workers’ Roles and Responsibilities

Residential childcare workers play a crucial role in the lives of children staying in residential care facilities.

Their responsibilities range from daily care activities, such as meal preparation and supervision, to more complex tasks like implementing individual care plans and conducting therapeutic interventions. Building positive relationships with children is a core aspect of their role, helping to create a supportive and trusting environment. They also work closely with children face to face to build trust and provide a sense of stability and safety.

What Makes a Good Residential Child Care Worker?

A good residential childcare worker meets the fundamental care needs of children but also plays a pivotal role in their overall development and emotional well-being.

The best residential youth workers exhibit a combination of compassion, resilience, and patience. They tend to be naturally empathetic, communicative and supportive. These qualities are essential for dealing with the complex issues faced by looked after children. They focus on promoting positive behaviour among the children. Therefore helping them develop healthy coping mechanisms and social skills.

Professional training, such as a Level 3 Diploma for Residential Childcare, equips these workers with the skills needed to provide high-quality care and support effectively.

Aims and Objectives of a Residential Childcare Service

A residential childcare service aims to safeguard vulnerable children, providing them with safety, protection, stability and continuity. These services also aim to foster education and skill development for children and young people in their care. They do this by providing a homelike environment that supports the health, education, and emotional development of each child. As well as preparing them for adulthood; and, whenever possible, reintegrating them with their families or preparing them for adoption.

Types of Residential Childcare

There are various types of residential care for children. Furthermore, professionals use different interventions to assist children with specific needs. These interventions provide customised support to help children develop and integrate into society. They include:

  • Children’s Homes/Group Care: General care homes accommodating children of various ages and needs.
  • Boarding School Residential Houses: Living and socialising spaces for pupils located within their school premises.
  • Specially Commissioned Provision: Provides individual placements for children who cannot be safely housed with peers or when no suitable facility is available.
  • Therapeutic/High Support Units: Facilities for children with complex needs who require specialised support such as therapy and tailored education.
  • Secure Care: Facilities for children who pose a risk to themselves or others, or have committed offences, featuring secure, locked environments.
  • Supported Accommodation for Independence: Living arrangements designed to prepare older adolescents for independent living, often with group settings and supportive resident or non-resident staff.

What is a Compulsory Supervision Order?

A compulsory supervision order is a legal order in the UK that places a child under local authority’s supervision for their own safety. It can dictate that the child remains at their current residence, lives with a relative, or moves to a residential care setting. Local authorities use these orders when a child needs additional protection or support.

What is a Children’s Home?

A children’s home is a residential home that provides care for children who do not live with their families. These homes offer a safe, stable and supportive environment where highly trained staff members including social workers and support workers work closely with each child to ensure their emotional, educational and physical development. children can grow and thrive. Staff in children’s homes closely work with each child to ensure they comprehensively meet their specific needs—whether educational, health-related, or emotional.

What is Kinship Care?

Kinship care, also known as connected persons or family and friends care, is where children are looked after by people they already know. This could be other relatives or family friends that are not their biological parents. People consider this form of care when it is in the best interest of the child to live with someone they know and trust. Rather than in traditional residential care settings.

What is Foster Care?

Foster care is a way of offering children and young people a home if their own family cannot look after them. Foster carers offer a family-like setting, which helps in maintaining a sense of normality and security for the child. The goal is to support the child until they can return home or move to a permanent solution.

What is a Houseparent?

A houseparent is a live-in care provider at a residential school or group home facility. They act as a ‘parental figure’ within residential settings, managing the day-to-day operations of a home while providing care, supervision, and support to the children. Houseparents play a crucial role in creating a familial atmosphere and are central to the emotional and physical well-being of the children.

What is a Residential School?

Residential schools are a place that provides both education and living accommodation for children and young people. These schools are particularly beneficial for looked after children. Offering a stable environment that integrates education with life skills training to prepare them for the future.

Group Living in Residential Childcare

Group living in residential childcare is where a group of children or young people live together in a residential setting under the supervision and care of residential care workers.

This type of care offers unique opportunities for children to form relationships with others who have similar backgrounds. Furthermore, this communal living helps develop social skills. As well as provides a network of support, mimicking a family-like structure which is essential for emotional development.

CARE Model (Children and Residential Experiences)

The CARE model is a research-based framework developed at the Residential Child Care Project at Cornell University. Caregivers use it in residential care for children to improve interactions with them. It focuses on 6 principles:

  • Developmentally focused
  • Family involved
  • Relationship based
  • Competence centred
  • Trauma informed
  • Ecologically oriented

Residential Childcare Courses

Residential childcare courses equip individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to work effectively in residential care settings for children.

At AC Education, we offer courses tailored for individuals in social care who are working with children and young people in residential care. These courses enhance your understanding of the development of vulnerable children. As well as, equip you with the skills to provide better support, and help promote positive behaviours.

Expert practitioners deliver our residential childcare training, specifically designed for those caring for children and young people in residential settings. This training supports the attainment of the mandatory Level 3 Diploma in Residential Childcare. Therefore, ensuring caregivers are well-prepared to meet the needs of their charges effectively.

Some of the courses available include:


Ultimately, the impact of a highly trained and compassionate residential child care worker can be life-changing for a child or young person.

If you’re interested in developing your knowledge and contributing to the well-being and future success of looked after children, then explore our selection of residential training courses.