1st Edition

Challenging the Conventional Wisdom about Residential Care for Children and Youth A Good Place to Grow

By Bruce B. Henderson Copyright 2024

    Is residential care 'inherently harmful'? This book argues that this conventional wisdom is wrong and is, itself, harmful to a significant number of children and youth.

    The presumptive view is based largely on overgeneralizations from research with infants and very young children raised in extremely deprived environments. A careful analysis of the available research supports the use of high-quality residential care as a treatment of choice with certain groups of needy children and youth, not a last resort intervention. The nature of high-quality care is explored through child development theory and research and two empirically supported models of care are described in detail.

    It will be of interest to all scholars and students of child development, child welfare, youth work, social work and education as well as professionals working within these fields.

    1.Challenging the Conventional Wisdom.  2.Not A Good Place to Grow?  3.Reading the Residential Care Research Literature.  4.What Explains the Hostility toward Residential Care?  5.Explorations of the Effectiveness of Residential Care.  6.Do We Know What Quality Residential Care Is?  7.Working Models of Residential Care in Children’s Homes.  8.A Good Place to Grow.


    Bruce B. Henderson is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Western Carolina University. He received his doctorate from the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development and is a member of the Society for Research in Child Development. He has published widely on children’s curiosity, memory development, and higher education.

    Professor Henderson has, from different angles, examined the 'conventional wisdom' that residential care for children and youth is inherently harmful to their development. He concludes that this 'wisdom' is scientifically completely unsustainable. As professionals (in training), policymakers and scientists, we have been enriched with a very convincing book.

    Erik J. Knorth
    Professor, University of Groningen, the Netherlands

    This text fills an important gap in the literature on residential care. It offers significant new analyses based on an extensive review of relevant literature. This challenge to the "conventional wisdom" is overdue and a critically important addition to the literature.

    James P. Anglin
    PhD, Emeritus Professor, University of Victoria

    A must-read corrective to conventional wisdom on residential child care. Henderson provides valuable analysis and perspective that will help to shape a more nuanced view of residential child care policy, research and practice.

    James K. Whittaker
    Ph.D, Charles O. Cressey Endowed Professor of Social Work Emeritus, The University of Washington

    Highly vulnerable children often fail in foster homes, retraumatized by multiple placements. Some require intensive relational care, turning trauma into resilience. Henderson's well-researched book deflates fake science that is eliminating the most intensive alternatives for these young people. 

    Larry K. Brendtro

    PhD, author, Reclaiming Youth at Risk: Futures of Promise

    This scholarly exploration of research on group care for vulnerable children crosses years and continents. The forensic approach to the knowledge base will be welcomed by all who argue for a continuing place for good quality children’s homes within the range of placements for (older) children.

    June Thoburn
    CBE, LiitD, MSW, Emeritus Professor of Social Work, University of East Anglia


    Bruce Henderson has methodically collated and rigorously interrogated the so-called and actual evidence base for the enduring dominant discourse that residential childcare categorically causes harm and therefore should remain an option of last resort. He similarly interrogates the evidence for a quieter but no less stubborn alternative discourse: that high-quality residential care can be the best option to support some children to flourish at some points in their lives. The book’s rigour, even-handedness and readability make it an extremely valuable resource for anyone who wants to move beyond ideology, assumption and distortion. 

    Laura Steckley, PhD
    Senior Lecturer, School of Social Work & Social Policy/CELCIS
    University of Strathclyde