By Barbara Kahan.
ISBN 0 11 701843 0
Residential child care is still seen as a last resort.
Ironically however, the children of some families are cheerfully
packed off every year to the playing fields of Eton and Rugby from
where they are expected to assume a place at the pinnacle of a
At the other end of this system, and at three or four times the
cost of boarding school education, about 11,000 young people end up
in children’s homes, from which they are likely to learn quickly
that although all men and women are equal, some are, indeed, much
more equal than others.
Barbara Kahan has written an invaluable book which, in a
well-organised, informative and meticulously scholarly way, tries
to redress this imbalance through research, data, and debate about
good practice. The book is partly the fruit of a large
multi-disciplinary group, drawn from health, education and social
services concerned with the welfare of children and young people
living away from home. As such it builds on the Wagner report, A
Positive Choice, and compliments the crucially important work being
done by the support force for children’s residential care.
The author rightly begins with data about the size of the sector
as it is represented in boarding school provision, children’s
homes, psychiatric units, penal institutions and other
This is helpful and vital to the later argument that, for some
parents, residential child care is indeed a positive choice and, as
such, can provide important lessons for public care. This
illustrates the forthright arguments that the book is prepared to
It argues that good practice can only be achieved through a
combination of skilled staff, openness, participation, quality
research and an element of continuity.
The book should become vital reading for students,
practitioners, managers and government ministers. It is born of a
passionate commitment that high quality residential care is worth
fighting for and provides the signpost for that care to be
Chris Hanvey is director, Thomas Coram Foundation for