About the Teaching Family Model

For children and young people who have experienced significant and repeated trauma, traditional out-of-home care (such as foster and residential care) doesn’t always provide the right support. The Teaching Family Model (TFM) offers an innovative way of caring for children and young people in a family-style setting.

How it works

The Teaching Family Model is a trauma-informed model of care where children and young people learn new behaviours by observing and imitating others. The model is based on social learning theory and focuses on building their:

  • strengths
  • problem-solving
  • interpersonal and leadership skills.

TFM practitioners live with a small group of children and young people (up to 4 per house), providing support 24-hours a day in a family-style setting.

TFM was developed in the United States and has more than 40 years of research evidence. The model was formally recognised by the American Psychological Association as an evidence-based practice in 2003 and was listed on the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (CEBC) in 2008.

Goals of TFM

TFM practitioners receive thorough training in caring for vulnerable children and young people, and can help them:

  • learn how to form healthy family relationships
  • improve their social skills
  • identify the main triggers that cause them stress
  • better manage their emotions.

These skills allow children and young people to have more stability in their care placements and schooling. With more stability, they have a better chance of reaching their full potential and having a better future.

The need for TFM

The number of children in out-of-home care in Victoria has increased by 27% in the last 5 years. The current system is stretched. Numerous investigative reports have shown us that the care young people are receiving in residential care is not adequate for their needs. This is why Berry Street is rolling out an evidence-based, alternative approach to traditional residential care. 

Our approach

Berry Street is the first organisation in Australia to implement TFM, a proven model of care that will reimagine the future for our most vulnerable children and young people.

After our successful TFM pilot in 2017, we began rolling out the model in more residential care homes. Ultimately, we plan to transition all our Therapeutic Residential Care homes to TFM.

We aim to:

  • be accredited in the model with support from New Zealand-based organisation, Youth Horizons | Kia Puāwai, in 2021. 
  • reshape the residential care sector in Victoria to help ensure better care and outcomes for children and young people in our care.

Read the latest news about TFM

Learn more about how we advocate for change

Through Elijah*’s eyes: the best things about his Teaching Family Model home

TFM practitioners provide children and young people with trauma-informed care, help them learn important interpersonal and living skills, and how to better manage their emotions.

In the words of Elijah, a 13-year-old who has been living in a Teaching Family Model house for about a year, “TFM is about:
  • learning skills to help us
  • having family meetings to decide things about the house
  • doing different leader roles in the house.”
Elijah has begun to really settle in. Discover 3 of his favourite things about living in a Teaching Family Model home.

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Free to be a child again

Lucas* was 6 when he came to Berry Street. Lucas was a victim of family violence and was so affected by his past of abuse and trauma, he struggled in traditional foster care homes. He didn’t know how to communicate or what it felt like to live in a stable home where he was safe from violence.

Now in a Teaching Family Model house, Lucas is learning how to live in a family and how to communicate.

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*Names have been changed in the interest of privacy. The models and volunteers pictured are not connected to the case study.