Stability in Residential Care: Is it Possible?

Residential care is found in most developed nations in the world. Australia, however, has one of the lowest rates of young people in residential care. The vast majority (95%) of young people in out of home care (OOHC) in Australia live in foster care or kinship care. Placement stability has, to date, largely been examined in foster care, leaving residential care a neglected area. Findings have typically been unanimous that instability leads to poorer outcomes in areas of mental health, criminality and behavioural difficulties. Stability, however, does not appear to lead to positive outcomes, surprisingly.

Furthermore, stability has typically been measured in a ‘placements-over-time’ format, measuring outcomes based on numbers of placements in a given time period. This approach fails to take into account the many moving parts in residential care, such as staff teams and co-residents, as well as the importance of maintaining attachments in order for stability to be experienced by the young person who has experienced multiple attachment ruptures.

The research to be presented was undertaken for a PhD utilising a qualitative framework to investigate the meaning of stability in residential care and if it can be achieved. Interviews were undertaken with young people who have left residential care with differing levels of stability and instability; and staff who have worked in residential care, in multiple different roles. The presentation will discuss the findings of the research and provide insights into both what stability means within residential care and what is needed to enact stability. Key recommendations are made regarding policy and practice.


Jenna Bollinger

Registered Psychologist , Knightlamp Psychology