Childhood First

Childhood First is a charity that provides specialist therapeutic care, education and treatment to children suffering emotional and behavioural disturbance as the result of early life trauma. We also provide support to their networks of adult carers.

Our Vision

To create 21st-century therapeutic environments for the recovery and rehabilitation of children and young people who have suffered abuse, neglect and other trauma.

Our Mission

To transform the lives of children and young people who suffer severe emotional and psychological difficulties, so that they can relate well to others, fulfill their potential and enjoy life.

Our Approach

Integrated Systemic Therapy, which is a form of group living and learning modeled on healthy relationships, adapted to the developmental needs of children and young people suffering severe relational trauma.

Our Values

In all that we do, we strive to embody the values of:

– Interdependence

– Hope

– Thoughtfulness

– Authenticity

– Perseverance


Our organisation was founded nearly a century ago to look after teenage boys who were breaking the law. Over 40 years ago, the director Melvyn Rose and the charity’s trustees recognized that the young people coming for help invariably brought with them histories of family dysfunction, resulting in neglect, abuse and other trauma, that needed a deeper psychotherapeutic approach if they were to be healed and rehabilitated. So began the pioneering and renowned therapeutic work of Childhood First, which has continued to evolve over four decades in response to the needs of some of the most seriously troubled of children, young people and families. At the heart of our approach has been the conviction that: ‘The damage caused by relationships can most effectively be healed by relationships’.


“The damage caused by relationships can most effectively be healed by relationships.”


Our first therapeutic community for young people was founded at Peper Harow in Surrey in 1970. Since then a series of communities has opened, Earthsea House and School (1999) in Norfolk, Greenfields House and School (1999) in Kent, Abington House in Northampton (2000), Merrywood House in Norfolk (2005), and The Gables in Kent opened in summer 2012. 

Our history demonstrates that we are the experts in the development of therapeutic communities for the treatment of seriously disturbed children and young people. These facilities remain extremely rare, and no other organization has the breadth and scale of experience, or the reputation, in this field that Childhood First enjoys. From our origins 90 years ago, we have become pioneering leaders in the field of mental health care for traumatised children and young people.

Childhood First’s reputation for consistently providing innovative and high quality care in our therapeutic communities has been harnessed within integrated therapeutic fostering to provide sustainable and reparative placements for children with complex needs.

Integrated Therapeutic Fostering enables children who need therapeutic support, and are able to cope within a family setting, to experience a consistent family life, at the same time as healing the trauma of their past, supporting their recovery and helping them learn to trust and relate well to others. Integrated Therapeutic Fostering thus develops children’s capacities for socialization and improves life outcomes.

Therefore our model of Integrated Therapeutic Fostering places great emphasis upon the power of healing through consistent and healthy relationships with the adults involved in their care and through experiencing a warm and nurturing family environment. We reflect these qualities in our own relationships with our carers.

We provide professional and academic training to our foster carers through our Institute, foster carers will be provided with professional and academic training through the Institute of Integrated Systemic Therapy, accredited by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy. Foster Carers will undertake our own one year Integrated Systemic Therapy Foundation Course, which has been mapped with the industry-standard Training, Skills and Development Course (TSD). Once completed, Foster Carers may also have the opportunity to undertake the Institute’s Certificate in Integrated Systemic Therapy which will be delivered by training seminars and supported by reflective practice groups. Continual Professional Development (CPD) will be delivered by the organisation, covering a range of relevant areas.’  

The support available is of the highest standard and quality and is not time limited.

We offer a highly competitive financial reward and benefit package to our carers, reflecting our appreciation of their significance to the delivery of our service.

This service will provide an alternative option for placing authorities mid-way between a standard foster care placement and a more specialised residential therapeutic placement. 



Integrated Therapeutic Fostering

Integrated Therapeutic Fostering is a pioneering therapeutic fostering service that has evolved from the innovative and high quality care within the Childhood First therapeutic communities, which has been harnessed within integrated therapeutic fostering to provide sustainable and reparative placements for children with complex needs. Integrated Therapeutic Fostering (iTF) is lead by two experienced professionals, experts within their own fields.

This partnership utilises their strengths, skills and expertise to develop and deliver the Integrated Therapeutic Fostering service.


Liz Fleet

I am the registered manager for iTF and am enormously proud to have the opportunity to develop and manage Childhood First’ very own fostering service.

I have over 20 years experience as a qualified social worker, with 15 years developing and managing teams in local authority children’s services where I have established and managed therapeutic fostering services.

I have a passionate interest in the provision of high quality, sustainable and reparative foster placements. I understand that to improve outcomes for Looked After Children and Young People we must adopt a holistic approach that demonstrates insight and cultivates the experiences of all key players. If we require our carers’ to provide exceptional levels of care for children who have experienced trauma and abuse, then they too need to be nurtured and cared for. This model of fostering fits perfectly within the Childhood First framework of providing outstanding care through their institute of systemic therapy and therapeutic communities.

To strengthen my understanding and insight into the emotional needs of children and families in fostering, I have studied at the Tavistock & Portman NHS Foundation Trust where I achieved an M.A in Fostering and Adoption studies.


Harry Lukens

I am the Clinical Lead for Integrated Therapeutic Fostering.  It is my responsibility to make sure that every child in our care is afforded an experience that allows them the space and time they need to heal.  Experience has taught me that the best way of achieving this is by equipping the network of adults around them with the knowledge and support to truly become attuned to a child’s needs.

I have 10 years of experience within Childhood First’s therapeutic communities, working with children recovering from the most traumatic early life experiences.  I have committed the last 10 years to studying integrated Systemic Therapy and its application in the service of supporting traumatised young people.  I believe passionately in the reformative potential of this mode of intervention, and am proud to play my part in a system that has, and will continue to, change the lives of many incredible children.  During my time with Childhood First and the Institute of integrated Systemic Therapy I have gained accreditation as a child psychotherapeutic counsellor.  It is, I suppose, a combination of my clinical training and the long hours spent reading bedtime stories to unsettled kids, that make me well placed to support our foster carers in their sizeable (but deeply deeply important) task.

I feel extremely privileged and fortunate to have been taught the importance of exceptional care by some very exceptional young people.  Now I am lucky enough to continue to learn from the individual experiences of our foster carers.



Call us on 020 3960 6485


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