Trauma responsive care model: An Aotearoa New Zealand research informed practice model for residential group homes

Andrea Greer


INTRODUCTION: This article presents a research-informed model of trauma responsive care for use in residential care practice social work settings with children and young people in Aotearoa New Zealand. The model was developed from a qualitative project which sought to address the research question “Does the quality of relationships with staff members have a positive impact on outcomes for children who reside in group home settings?”

METHODS: Using semi-structured, in-depth interviews, eight children were interviewed regarding their experience of relationships while living within supervised group homes (SGHs). In order to gain multiple perspectives on this topic, six biological parents and two legal guardians of children were interviewed and focus group discussions were held with staff members from three SGHs. Thematic analysis was used to identify key themes identified from the findings.

FINDINGS: Five dominant themes were identified from the children’s and parent’s interviews. The central theme was the importance of relationships; that relationship is the key when working with children who have experienced trauma. Children who have experienced trauma need to feel safe in the context of relationships and benefit from bottom-up interventions in order to heal from their traumatic experiences.

CONCLUSION: A research-informed model of trauma responsive care was constructed from study findings informed by two principal bodies of knowledge: (1) attachment theory; and (2) neuroscience. The resultant trauma responsive care model provides a framework of strategies for anyone working with children in residential care settings who have experienced trauma and/ or attachment difficulties.


Foster care; residential group homes; therapeutic model; trauma-informed practice; trauma responsive care; child-centred practice; attachment

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