Restorative Justice in Residential Care Homes

In recent years there has been increased interest in using restorative approaches in Residential Child care settings, based on the philosophy and practice of restorative justice. This innovative approach to dealing with conflict, anti-social behaviour and criminal behaviour has been increasing used.

A restorative approach in a care setting shifts the emphasis from managing behaviour to focussing on the building, nurturing and repairing of relationships.

Behaviour management policies tend to focus only on the behaviour of young people and usually include reference to sanctions in the event of rule breaking. These sanctions have the potential to harm the crucial adult-child relationship.

A restorative care home would need, in contrast, a relationship management policy, which considers the needs and responsibilities of every member of that community towards each other

In order to engage in a restorative approach to conflict and challenging behaviour in care settings, adults and young people alike need to develop:

  • A willingness to listen to others’ perspectives on a situation and suspend the notion that there is only one way of looking at something
  • An ability to listen to the feelings and needs behind others’ words, especially if these words are offensive, hurtful or accusatory
  • An ability to be in touch with one’s own feelings and needs so that these can be expressed in a way that gets heard and understood by others
  • And a commitment to giving everyone a chance to share their story

Staff in Residential Child Care settings needs a range of flexible strategies for dealing with the day to day conflicts and challenges of living and working with young people. Potentially challenging situations are numerous but include:

  • Welcoming young people or new staff into the setting;
  • Meeting with family; preparation for, and returning from visits; setting the group rules;
  • Getting out of bed in the morning;
  • Going to bed at night; behaviour at school;
  • Meal times and in-between snacks;
  • Rules around access and behaviour in the kitchen;
  • Television times and what to watch;
  • Access to telephones & private calls;
  • Conflict with other children in the home; with other ‘local’ children and between children and staff;
  • Activity negotiation;
  • Wanting to go out, without staff;
  • Control/access to money, clothes, etc;
  • Behaviour in transport / on journeys;
  • When something in the home has been broken;
  • When there is an accusation of theft;
  • Attempt at self-harm;
  • Use of drugs and/or alcohol.

In all of these situations the young people will learn about how to deal with conflict and anger from the way in which the staffs handle the situation. The behaviour of the adults will teach the young people key lessons in life for when they are faced with challenging situations – in work settings, socially with friends and as parents.

We train staffs and residents in the use and application of Restorative Justice Approaches in this setting.