Young People on the Edge of Care: The use of respite placements

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This exploratory study evaluated a local authority residential respite care scheme, which was developed to prevent long-term family breakdown.The innovative service offers a series of planned short breaks (1-3 nights) over several months. The service integrates planned prevention, placement and rehabilitation services. Alongside the residential workers, the Community Support Team (CST) and social workers work with young people and parents to rebuild their relationships and develop their communication skills and avoid entry to long-term care.

The key aims of the study were to describe the characteristics of the integrated service and assess whether the service helped to achieve positive outcomes for young peoople at risk of family breakdown, in relation to:
- ameliorating the specific problems presented at referral,
- reducing the severity of their emotional and behavioural difficulties,
- improving child and family functioning,
- preventing admission to long-term care.

Sample and methods
This study collected data on 25 young people referred to the service and followed-up 24 of them 11 months (on average) later. Information was collected from young people and parents at both stages. Survey questionnaires and interviews were undertaken with residential workers, CST workers and social workers and focus groups were held with staff. Standardised measures were incorporated to measure change in child emotional and behavioural difficulties, family functioning and parental mental health.

Key findings
The young people and parents had multiple and severe behavioural and emotional difficulties, often long-term. Difficulties became less severe for many young people, and many young people and parents felt that residential and CST staff had contributed to this improvement. However, most nevertheless remained above the clinical threshold for emotional and behavioural difficulties and two thirds moved away from home for a while (to care placements or relatives). Although one fifth (5) were likely to remain in care long-term, this appeared a positive outcome, as all had experienced emotionally abusive parenting over a long period of time.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationUniversity of York, York
PublisherSocial Work Research and Development Unit
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • children on the edge of care
  • social work issues

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