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Children living in different settings

Introduction

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This unit is from our archive and it is an adapted extract from Working with children and families (K204) which is no longer in presentation. If you wish to study formally at The Open University, you may wish to explore the courses we offer in this subject area. [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

You are probably aware that most children live with a parent or parents, with siblings and relatives and with family pets in the family home. But many children do not live with their parents or even with their families. Some may be living in different settings such as a boarding school because they or their parents want them to be there. Others may live with relatives or friends. Some will live with foster or adoptive families or in residential homes with a range of different carers. Whatever these children's circumstances, they will experience some form of separation, often from loved ones, from important places and even possessions as they move from one setting to another. Whatever the event that causes them to move away from their parents or families, the significance of moving in a child's life can be considerable.

As you read through this unit, you will be invited to consider significant aspects of children's lives when they live away from their families of origin. The activities will help you to think about separation, what it means to children and what kinds of practice might best enable children to adjust to their changing circumstances.

A range of factors influence whether a child thrives in a different setting. Obvious examples are the reasons why the child is there, how long the child is there for, the amount of choice the child has over the setting, whether there is stigma attached to where the child is living, what rights the child may be allowed to exercise and whether the child feels valued, protected and supported during and after a move. Age, gender, ethnicity, disability, and the wider social and economic context also influence the experiences of children in different settings and how well they cope. Although the largest number of children living away from their families of origin are those in boarding schools, the smaller numbers of children who live ‘in care’ generally experience additional difficulties linked to the disruption in their lives. This is reflected in statistics about children from ‘care’ under-achieving in education, becoming substance misusers, entering the prison population or having early or unplanned births (Jones et al., 2005).

Practitioners working with children who live in different settings can include for example, health care workers, teachers, care workers, play workers and social workers. These workers need to understand how important it is to promote these children's wellbeing and development. A poor experience of living in a different setting even for a short time can sometimes have long-term negative repercussions. All workers must be alert to, and take steps to minimise, such risks.

This unit focusses on the different settings in which children may live.

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