Family Partnering in Australian Therapeutic Residential Care: A Scoping Study

Patricia M McNamara - Residential Treatment for Children & Youth


Therapeutic residential care (TRC) privileges healing from trauma for vulnerable children and young people. It presents an opportunity for staff to partner with families to overcome trauma-induced conflicts and separations and build positive, resilient relationships. Co-parenting of residents by staff and parents can become possible. Positive impacts of effective family partnering in residential care generally, and within TRC specifically, are affirmed by international evidence. Family partnering in TRC has not, however, been formally researched in Australia. This preliminary scoping study aimed to explore approaches to family partnering within Australian TRC, along with elements of best practice. It also attempted to identify opportunities and challenges encountered in the partnering process. Australian experience is contextualized more broadly by international informants. Interviews with managers (N = 8) and experts (N = 6) were undertaken. Findings suggest that staff commitment to building trusted relationships with parents and children, within sibling groups and with significant others is critical to effective partnering. Healing family trauma and estrangement can be facilitated by ensuring optimum family access to and inclusion within the program. Equity and empowerment strategies and support of diverse family, family-like and community relationships appear critical to effective policy and programmatic development. This study provides a platform for larger scale research.