The CARE Program Model
Residential Child Care Project – Cornell University
Children And Residential Experiences: Creating Conditions for Change. (CARE) is a comprehensive program model for improving services for children in out-of-home care (Holden, 2009). This model enables child caring agencies to organize and deliver quality care of children according to research informed principles based on the best interest of the child. The CARE program model reflects the following six practice principles.
Relationship Based. Children need to establish healthy attachments and trusting, personally meaningful relationships with the adults who care for them. These relationships are essential for increased social and emotional competence. Healthy child-adult developmental relationships help children develop social competencies that can be applied to other relationships. A child’s ability to form relationships and positive attachments is an essential personal strength and a manifestation of resiliency associated with healthy development and life success.
Developmentally Focused. All children have the same basic requirements for growth and development. Activities offered to children need to be appropriate to each child’s developmental level and designed to provide them with successful experiences on tasks that they perceive as challenging, whether in the realm of intellectual, motor, emotional, or social functioning. Research and theory have shown that activities that are developmentally appropriate help to build children’s self-efficacy and improve their overall self-concept.
Family Involved. Contact with family is one of the few indicators of successful treatment that has empirical validation. Children benefit when their families work in partnership with the child caring organization. Retaining children’s connections to family, culture, and community bolsters their resiliency and improves their self-concept.
Trauma Informed. A large percentage of children in care have a history of violence, abuse, and neglect resulting in debilitating effects on their growth and development. Adults need to respond sensitively and refrain from reacting coercively when children exhibit challenging behavior rooted in trauma and pain. Trauma sensitive responses help children regulate their emotions and maintain positive adult-child relationships.
Competence Centered. Competence is the combination of skills, knowledge, and attitudes that each child needs to effectively negotiate developmental tasks and the challenges of everyday life. It is a primary responsibility of caregivers and the organization to help children become competent in managing their environment as well as to motivate them to cope with challenges and master new skills. Learning problem-solving, critical thinking skills, emotional regulation skills, and developing flexibility and insight are all essential competencies that allow children to achieve personal goals and increase their motivation for new learning. All interactions and activities should be purposeful and goal oriented with the aim of building these competencies and life skills.
Ecologically Oriented. Children engage in dynamic transactions with their environment as they grow and develop. To optimize growth and development, children must live within an environment that is engaging and supportive. Caregivers must understand that their relationships with the children are part of a larger social-ecology; their face-to-face interactions with children, the activities they promote, and the physical environment in which they live all have an impact on the developmental trajectories of children. Competent adults using skill sets informed by the CARE principles can only be effective when they are working in an ecology of care that will allow them to use their skills.