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Residential care for children

Residential care for children and children's homes are there to ensure that the needs of children are met when they cannot live with their own family.

Children's homes look after children with many different needs. They are a place for children to develop and grow, as well as providing food, shelter, and space for play and leisure in a caring environment.

Care planning

When children and young people come to live in a children's home, they will have a care plan. Their care plan says why a child is living in a home, what is supposed to happen while they are living there and what is supposed to happen at the end of their stay.

Most children will go home, but a few go to live with other families and a few go to live in other homes. Older children who are not planning to return home are given help to prepare them for living on their own – this is called leaving care.


Education is important. Children go to their own school if they have a school place, or we help to get them back into school.

Staying in touch

It is very important that children and young people stay in touch with their family and friends. It is only when they might be hurt, or a court order says that contact is not allowed, that some children will not be able to have visits from their family or will not be able to visit them.

Identity and community

Children and young people are respected as individuals. By providing for their religious and cultural needs, we encourage children to keep their sense of personal identity and community.

Eligibility for the service

A social worker carries out an assessment with the family, which includes the extended family. A children's home will only be considered when it is not possible for the child to live with their family and it is in the best interests of the child to live away from their own families.

The reasons for this can include:

  • their parents are unwell and are unable to look after their children
  • children are subject of abuse or neglect
  • they have serious problems with their family and need to spend some time away from home, e.g. behaviour problems or educational difficulties
  • they may have a disability and need a break from living with their families 
  • they are in our care on a court order or an interim care order.

Generally, when children and young people need to live away from their families, they will stay with foster carers. It is only when foster care is not possible following an assessment that a child will be placed in a residential home.

In all cases, we make sure that all the alternatives are fully considered before recommending residential care.

Are you worried about the safety or welfare of a child? 
If you think a child or young person may be in immediate danger, call 999. Otherwise contact us on 020 8314 6660 or out of hours call 020 8314 6000.