A new children’s home for vulnerable teenagers has opened in Somerset.
Funded by Somerset county council, Homes2Inspire and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, the home will house up to four children who have been taken into care but cannot manage in foster or other residential placements.
Part of the Homes to Horizons project, nine other properties are expected to open in the county over the next year.
Home manager, Kelly Field said: “We want it to feel like home.”
Children at the home can expect tailored education with expert staff experienced in mental health, therapy, and social work.
Ms Field said the home, which includes a large living room, family kitchen, a garden and trampoline, will house children who “find it more difficult to manage their day to day emotions and behaviours”, including those with verbally aggressive behaviours, mental health issues and self-harming behaviours.
Ms Field said the children who she cares for, would “have probably had 5+ breakdowns” in foster care and residential homes or “may have been sectioned under the mental health act”.
She added that she recognises that some foster carers may struggle with that situation.
“But ever time a child is moved, the child’s trauma is revisited,” she said.
It costs an average of £3,830 a week for each child in care in Somerset, and more than a third of them are living at least 20 miles from their home base, separated from family, friends and support networks.
There are also 15 children in the county currently living in unregistered care homes, at a cost of £10.7m a year.
This is because registered care homes have refused to take them and others living in secure facilities or inpatient mental health units.
Ms Field said she hopes the home will prevent children feeling a “lack of trust” that comes when they are moved.
Instead, she wants the children to know it “isn’t a home that’s going to say ‘we can’t have you anymore’.”
“We want it to feel like a normal family home. So when they come home from school – they want their friends to know, ‘this is where I live’,” she said.
Ms Field said they had reassured locals by inviting them to visit, and hopes the home will change the perception of children’s homes in the community.
She said: “I think some people have this perception that children, looked-after children, are monsters, that they’re going to cause them nothing but aggravation and that they’re going to be in the streets.”
Ms Field said while she “can’t promise that they [locals] won’t hear someone upset”, locals will see there is “a team of staff wrapped around them to support them.”
Ms Field said while children at the home will face consequences for bad behaviour, there will be lot of love too.
“There’s nurture and there’s promoting education – wanting them to succeed and not giving up on them,” she added.