Using sexual health and safety education to protect against child sexual abuse in residential care: The LINC model

Gemma McKibbin, Anna Bornemisza, Ana Fried, Cathy Humphreys, Madelaine Smales - Child & Family Social Work


Children and young people living in residential care are vulnerable to sexual abuse, and there is scant evidence about what sexuality education could help address this vulnerability. This paper explores the impact of the Power to Kids: Respecting Sexual Safety programme, which involved capacity‐building workers to have ‘brave conversations’ with children and young people in residential care. The aim of the study was to capture the perceptions of workers about changes in their skill and confidence levels in relation to having brave conversations with children and young people and the impact of those conversations on children and young people. A mixed‐methods study was undertaken, involving multiple sets of interviews with 27 workers associated with four residential houses. The qualitative and quantitative data analysis showed that workers perceived the impact of the capacity building and brave conversations as strengthening protective factors available to children and young people vulnerable to sexual abuse. The research revealed the ‘LINC model’ as a viable approach to capacity‐building workers to educate children and young people in residential care about sexual health and safety. Workers perceived the enhancement of the following protective factors: stronger safe relationships, greater comfort disclosing abuse and improved knowledge of normal versus harmful sexual behaviour.