Residential Care, Treatment complex trauma

What is Therapeutic Residential Care: A Consensus View

Practitioners often discuss what is and what is not therapeutic residential care (TRC). A group of academics have recently attempted to answer this question.

The group, called the International Working Group on Therapeutic Care is made up of 30+ leading academics and thinkers on TRC. The lead author is well-known US academic James K Whittaker. The group includes two Australian academics: Frank Ainsworth from James Cook University and Patricia McNamara from the University of Melbourne.

The researchers convened in Germany in April last year to consider therapeutic care and recently released a consensus statement TRC. They define TRC as:

… involves the planful (sic) use of a purposefully constructed, multi-dimensional living environment designed to enhance or provide treatment, education, socialization, support, and protection to children and youth with identified mental health or behavioral needs in partnership with their families and in collaboration with a full spectrum of community based formal and informal helping resources.

The statement is interesting not so much because it states anything new about therapeutic care but rather (a) it summarises the pertinent issues to the future of therapeutic care and (b) provides a list of international resources on TRC.


Take outs for Practitioners

  • For new Practitioners, the article provides a quick overview of the key issues impacting TRC
  • For more experienced Practitioners, the article references international sources of information on TRC. I have included some of them below:

Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) especially Rightsizing Congregate Care: A Powerful First Step in Transforming Child Welfare Systems (2009)

Casey Family Programs  especially their paper Elements of Effective Practice for Children and Youth Served by Therapeutic Residential Care

Centre of Excellence for Looked After Children (CELCIS)

Residential Care in England: Report of Sir Martin Narey’s independent review of children’s residential care (2016)


Whittaker, J. K., et al. (2016). “Therapeutic Residential Care for Children and Youth: A Consensus Statement of the International Work Group on Therapeutic Residential Care*.” Residential Treatment for Children & Youth 33(2): 89-106.


About graemembaird

I am a psychologist with a special interest in improving the outcomes of families, children and young people in the Out of Home Care and Juvenile Justice systems.
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