‘This shared parenting we do is difficult to get your head around’. Experiences of Parents and Carers during their Child's First Year at a Residential Therapuetic Special School: a Qualitative Study
Onions, Caryn Jane
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
To pursue publication elsewhere
This research examined the impact on parents and carers of having a child placed at a residential special school for abused, neglected and traumatised primary aged children. The school is developing its work with families and carers, because if relationships at home are improved, children are more likely to benefit from the placement at Stowbury. Although it is the child who is referred, establishing a good working relationship with parents and carers is vital in helping them with their child’s return home. The study focused on parental experiences of the child’s first year at the school, using interviews at the start of placement and then twelve months later. The data were analysed using a comparative thematic analysis at two time points and a secondary narrative analysis. Researcher reflexivity is used and where appropriate the findings are discussed from a psychoanalytic perspective. The analysis found that during the first year the children make positive changes. Birth parents were helped with their parenting, particularly the (re)establishment of parental boundaries. In contrast, some foster carers found it difficult to share the parenting role, and tensions between home and school were identified. Some parents and carers found it difficult to reflect on their role and relationship with their child. In general, parents and carers expected their child to be able to go to mainstream school when they left Stowbury, and after one year some realised that was unlikely. The study concludes that the experience of foster carers could be improved if they were helped to increase their ability to reflect on their parenting role. In addition, sharing the parenting of this group of children can cause tension between parents, carers and staff. There are training implications for the professionals involved. This research makes an original contribution to knowledge about the psychodynamics that develop in the relationships between the parents, carers and staff looking after abused children in a residential school.