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Out-of-home care

Teaching Family Model

Northern region South Eastern region

A man helping a young child colour in

For children and young people who have experienced significant and repeated trauma, traditional out-of-home care (such as foster care 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.

Goals of TFM

TFM practitioners receive thorough training in caring for vulnerable children and young people, and 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 21% in the last 4 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.

I strongly believe that TFM is how residential care should be. It fills my youth worker passion cup every single day and I love the work that we do WITH the kids, not FOR.

- TFM Practitioner

Our approach

Berry Street is the first organisation in Australia to implement TFM, and in March 2021 we became accredited in the model with support from New Zealand-based organisation, Youth Horizons | Kia Puāwai.

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.

Through TFM, we aim to reshape the residential care sector in Victoria to help ensure better care and outcomes for children and young people in our care.

Learn more about how we advocate for change

Contact us

For more information about the Teaching Family Model, please contact Tom Bowerman, our Director of Innovation at tbowerman@berrystreet.org.au.

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

    Elijah* has been living in a Teaching Family Model house for over a year and has found that routine and consistency are key to helping him feel settled.

  • Teaching Family Model: A new model of care

    In a Teaching Family Model home, 3 children have been learning how to form healthy family relationships, how to identify the main triggers that cause them stress and to better manage their emotions.

  • Free to be a child again: Lucas heals from trauma

    Lucas has been living in a Teaching Family Model house where two specially trained carers have been helping him to form healthy family relationships.