Key Resource: A Home Away From Home

Parkerville Children and Youth Care’s model of care has a strong focus on restoration, and we recognise that our homes are only ever a ‘home away from home’ for children and young people, their first home being with their family and their community.

What is ‘a home away from home’?

This second home is a place where young people can be loved and cared for, and it’s important that connections with their family and community are maintained or rebuilt where possible, whether they’re with us for a short time or a long time.

Offering young people some choice and control is what makes it possible for a child’s experience in care to feel like a home away from home, and is an important element of a trauma-informed approach to out of home care. When children have already experienced distress and trauma, allowing them to make some decisions about what their experience of care will be like is an important step that can help them to feel safe and supported in a new and unfamiliar environment.

What does this look like?

‘A home away from home’ is not about giving children complete control over the home, or setting unrealistic expectations about any changes that could be made. It also goes deeper than just letting young people choose a colour for their walls or buying them gifts.

Personalising the home away from home is about giving children a feeling of control and safety where they’re able to have their choices and their wishes respected, which goes a long way towards building trust, improving the care experience, and ensuring that young people have the skills and confidence to become independent adults in the future.

The principles guiding us in this work are:

1. Building trauma-informed relationships

Taking the time and space needed to build relationships with each child.

2. Unearthing what’s precious to each child

Investing in understanding what’s important to them as individuals.

3. An experience of home

Making the home feel homely without needing to buy too much ‘stuff’.

4. Giving opportunities for contribution and responsibility

Building a sense of home by inviting responsibility and contribution.

5. Building Carer skills in listening and compromise

Supporting you to do the complex, relational work of co-creating home.

6. Incorporating family in the home away from home

Keeping connections to the young person’s family alive in the home.

Because of the variety of care settings and contexts and the diversity of the children we work with, what this work looks like in practice will be different in every home and for every child. Pictured below is one example of personalising the home away from home, exploring the experience of Tonji and his carer Sally (semi-fictional ‘personas’ from our co-design work).

Illustration by Bruce Mutard:

This scene shows just a few of the ways carers could go about putting the principles of a personalised home away from home into practice.

Produced in collaboration with our partners at Innovation Unit, the ‘A Home Away From Home’ Practice Guide contains more detailed guidance about the principles and practices of this work and how to have good conversations about personalising the care experience.

Building on our strengths

If you work with children in care at Parkerville or elsewhere, you might read the above and think ‘but I already do this!’ — and that’s exactly the point. Most aspects of the ‘Our Way Home’ model aren’t new or radical, but rather, they build on a lot of the excellent care work already being done at Parkerville and across the care system, amplifying what’s already working and ensuring that it happens consistently, deliberately, and in a supported way.

By building this personalisation of the home away from home into the ‘Our Way Home’ model of care, we make our aspirations for children’s experience in care explicit: that every child should be given voice and choice and should experience a sense of control and safety in this second home, while keeping a focus on connection with their first home, which is with their family.

The Our Way Home model is also a helpful framework to which we can attach practical tools and resources (like the practice guide above) and provide support, including by enabling carers to support one another. Just as personalising the second home will look different for every child, implementing this part of the model in practice will look different for every carer, and we look forward to working with the Parkerville team to support them in this important work.

A Home Away From Home Practice Guide

Practice Guide

Practice Guide

A how-to guide for the Parkerville team