Residential Care

Residential Care - Berry Street


Berry Street provides short and long term care for young people who cannot live safely at home with their families. Historically, residential care has often been seen as an option of ‘last resort’, but at Berry Street we recognise that residential care is a valuable alternative for those young people who are unable to live in other care environments. Across Victoria, care is provided by rostered staff in small-scale group houses for up to four young people.

Who we support

The young people in Berry Street’s residential care programs are generally aged between 13 and 17 years. The majority of these young people have been the subject of protective services intervention because they have experienced the trauma of child abuse, neglect and family violence. Often the young people have complex needs and their behaviours place them at risk of significant harm. These issues include: social and emotional difficulties; alcohol and other substance abuse; poor self image; self-harming; criminal behaviours; mental and physical health issues; intellectual disability; and educational difficulties.

Berry Street supports the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle which emphasises the vital importance of culture and community to Aboriginal children in out of home care. At any one time, a number of Aboriginal young people are placed in Berry Street’s residential care and we are committed to building connections with the young person’s community and incorporating culture into their everyday lives.

Our approach

Berry Street’s residential care programs aim to promote personal growth, provide opportunities for “normal” life experiences, foster community connectedness and offer a safe environment for young people while they work through their issues. We support young people in residential care until they are able to make the transition to independent living in the community.
Berry Street’s residential care is provided in purpose built houses with bedrooms for either two or four young people. These houses are designed to look like any other house in a street and are located in communities across the Hume, Gippsland, North & West and South Eastern regions. The desire to create a ‘home like environment’ is balanced with the need to provide vulnerable young people with safety and protection.

Residential care staff are rostered to provide care, supervision and support to the young people 24 hours a day. The staff go to sleep when the young people are settled at night and are there in the morning when the young people wake up. The hands on work of residential workers can be complex and demanding, and includes a range of roles from cook, cleaner and driver to mentor, advocate and limit setter. The quality of the relationship between staff and the young people is of critical importance to the success of our approach, and Berry Street places great emphasis on the professional development and support of residential care staff.

It is vital to thoroughly assess the needs of young people coming into our residential care. We seek to match the young person with the best available placement option, as well as ensuring we provide them with appropriate supports and services. We endeavour to link young people into education and training options and actively refer to a range of cultural, medical, counselling and legal services. Our programs have a particular focus on the health and wellbeing of young people, encouraging healthy eating, positive lifestyle choices and exercise.

Our partners

Berry Street’s residential care programs are funded by the Department of Human Services (DHS). DHS is generally legally responsible for the care and welfare of young people within our programs. However, the legislative environment within the State of Victoria enables this responsibility to be shared at the practice level. Staff from Berry Street and DHS work together in a care team approach to case management, and meetings of senior DHS and Community Service Organisations (CSOs) occur at the Regional and Central levels in the interests of service integration for young people residing in residential care.

A further critical partnership involves access to specialist clinical expertise and services. Berry Street’s Take Two Intensive Therapeutic Service has a profound effect on the clinical expertise available to our residential care programs.

Berry Street residential care programs forge relationships with organisations and individual practitioners to ensure the needs of young people are met.

Case study

Thirteen year old Brady arrived at our new therapeutic residential unit five days before Christmas. His mother lived interstate and he had no memory of his father. Brady was angry and was determined to prove that he was ‘no good’ by swearing at and abusing staff, breaking things and alienating his peers.

He hadn’t made it in foster care, with relatives or other residential care, so why should this be different… But it was different as our staff slowly earned Brady’s trust and helped him understand how to change his destructive behaviour. The first breakthrough came when we learned that Brady loved horses and we arranged for him to learn to ride.

We encouraged Brady to join our education program and helped him develop strategies to keep himself calm enough to learn. We also started to rebuild a relationship with his mother and to reconnect to his father and extended family. Brady is starting to work out where he fits.

Brady has made such great progress over the past two years that he is now ready for mainstream school and the plan is for him to leave the residential unit and live with an uncle.