The challenge of improving positive residential care practices. Evidence from staff experiences in Portugal


  • Isabel S. Silva University of Coimbra and University of Lisbon
  • Maria F. Gaspar University of Coimbra


residential child care, looked after children, challenging behaviour, staff training, residential child care effectiveness


Residential child care has to be a quality answer to the children who are in placements. Positive professional care practices are crucial. In Portugal, little has been done to equip residential child care staff with effective child behaviour management strategies. This paper provides an overview of the state of the Portuguese residential child care context, the characteristics of the looked after children and the care staff, and in particular, the need to work with these professionals to achieve better and safer caring practices. It suggests the necessity of a proven evidence-based programme in Portuguese residential child care settings to help staff with little or no pre-service specific training, to better cope with the young residents' behaviour difficulties, to develop a skilled childcare workforce, and to improve placement quality. In the second part of the paper some results will be presented regarding our own research on the application of the evidence-based 'Incredible Years' parenting programme in training courses for Portuguese residential workers. Considering its positive value we recommend this programme to be considered for delivery to residential staff in such settings.

Author Biography

Isabel S. Silva, University of Coimbra and University of Lisbon

Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Coimbra, and Faculty of Psychology, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal.