Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) this week released the paper, Therapeutic residential care services in Australia: A description of current service characteristics. The paper provides an overview of current practice of therapeutic residential care services conducted in Australia. It reports on the results of an online survey of 37 Australian services, including eight from Queensland, describing their configuration, characteristics and activities. Collectively, the 37 respondents in this study estimated that they were caring for approximately 1,236 young people.

The paper is intended as a companion to a related paper previously published – Therapeutic residential care: An update on current issues in Australia,  which overviewed developments in therapeutic residential care service provision since it was first recognised as an emerging form of service delivery in Australia.

The current paper was commissioned to understand what service characteristics and activities currently exist in therapeutic residential care services in Australia. In particular, more detailed information is needed about: how residential care services are configured and funded; who they provide care for; and what activities they undertake, in order to assist funding bodies and service providers in planning and meaningful decision making regarding service delivery.

Key learnings from the paper are that:

  • Variable configurations of therapeutic residential care services are used, and variable frameworks and models inform practice.
  • A common configuration for therapeutic homes is a four-bed home, set in the community, with two on-site staff. There is insufficient evidence about the benefit of one service configuration over another.
  • Recommendations for further development include: improving referral, matching and transitioning pathways for young people; more emphasis on a child-centred approach to service design; and the introduction of intensive and secure care models to meet the needs of defined groups of young people.
  • Services could benefit from the introduction of specialised models and specific assessment and outcome frameworks and tools.
  • Legislative changes are needed to increase flexibility in the way services are commissioned and funded.
  • Aspects of service delivery, staffing and structure warrant further investigation.