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Abstract

It is still widely held that the traditional or conventional nuclear family is the only suitable environment in which children can grow up and that any deviation from this norm puts children at a considerable disadvantage (Kahan, 1989). The vulnerability of children and young people coming into residential care in Ireland due to their dysfunctional family experiences, and how coming into residential care and their subsequent experience therein can sometimes further increase this level of vulnerability for the adolescent child has been well documented. This paper discusses the question: What can we, as residential child care workers and agencies, do to reduce the anxiety level of the vulnerable child coming into care, or at the very least, to ensure that this level of anxiety is not increased, during their admission and subsequent stay in care? Before I attempt to answer this question, it is important to point out that there are many aspects of residential care which can effect the vulnerable child. It is not possible in this short paper to consider all those aspects. However, I concentrate on those issues which I, as a social care practitioner, feel to be important. I discuss what I term influencing factors or macro issues. These factors can have an adverse affect on good residential child care practice. Next I critically analyse current practices issues in residential care based on my own personal experiences and on discussions with child care workers and students in a variety of settings. The views expressed are not intended to offend but rather to encourage selfevaluation and debate in order to improve our professional practice (see McElwee, 1998). I will conclude with suggestions and recommendations as to how we can endeavour to provide a better service for the vulnerable child in our care.

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