About Ballyowen Meadows

 This purpose-built centre provides a unique setting in which children can live with their families in a safe and secure environment while parenting skills are assessed and developed.

The family based residential placements at Ballyowen Meadows aim to be preventative in their design, enabling service providers to uniquely address child protection concerns within the family while, at the same time, supporting families to remain connected with each other.

Ballyowen Meadows operates under the service provision of Traveller Families Care CLG.  It was first established in 1998 as a family based residential and support unit for families from the Traveller Community.  We have since developed into a specific parenting assessment service for all families. Our approach always remains child centred.

The unit caters for one family at a time (family of up to eight children and two parents) and is staffed by two Social Care Workers on a twenty-four-hour basis.

We provide residential based parenting capacity Assessments in Ballyowen Meadows. The duration of the assessments is 12 weeks.

However, within this timeframe, we reserve the right to suspend/terminate an assessment if, at any stage, it is felt that it is not in the best interests of the child for the placement to continue. Should such a situation arise, full consultation with the Social Worker would take place, before a final decision would be made.

Why Refer to Ballyowen Meadows

  • Caters for one family at the time
  • Observations are carried out daily
  • Evidenced based in a residential setting
  • Efficient and timely approach
  • Independent
  • Comprehensive recommendations
  • Ongoing intervention when required
  • 24-hour Staffing and Support

All referrals for Ballyowen Meadows will be considered for placement. On receipt of all information from the central referrals committee, a risk assessment will be completed which will determine whether the family is deemed suitable for placement or not.

Families are admitted to Ballyowen Meadows under various circumstances

  • Voluntarily – no care status on the children
  • Care Order – Voluntary, Supervision or Interim Care Orders
  • Alternative Care – assessment to determine possibility of reunification

We provide assessment to

  • Parents (either together or separately) who are considered to pose a risk to their children and need independent assessment and support
  • Families where abuse or maltreatment is alleged, suspected, or known to have occurred
  • Parents with mental health problems, learning difficulties, alcohol and/or substance misuse and are having difficulty in caring for their child. 
  • Vulnerable young and teenage parents
  • Parents where domestic violence is present/ suspected
  • Families where children are in the care of the State and reunification is being explored
  • Parents with children whom Tusla are considering court proceedings.
  • Court directed assessments

Referral Criteria

  • The family are aware of the purpose of the placement, the reasons for the referral and any child protection concerns are clearly identified with the parents before the family are admitted to Ballyowen Meadows.
  • The family must have an address to return to after the 12-week assessment.
  • The Social Work Team must provide a Letter of Instruction, detailing specific areas of family functioning and parenting capacity which require assessment.
  • There must be a commitment from the Social Work Team to attend bi-weekly review meetings for the duration of the assessment process.
  • Each referral will be risk assessed to determine the level of risk including adult violence, drug misuse and mental health concerns.
  • Placement availability (waiting list is reviewed regularly).


Our assessment of families is structured around an assessment framework, in effect a map for systematically gathering, ordering an analysing assessment information.

The framework we use is ‘The Assessment of Children in Need and their Families’, Department of Health (UK) 2000. It is a well-established, widely used, research backed assessment model. It seeks information on three specific areas:

  • The developmental needs of the child
  • The capacity of the parents to meet those needs
  • Other family and environmental factors impacting on the child’s health and development.

Alongside the Assessment Framework we utilise a number of other models and information gathering tools to assist us in our family assessments, analysis and work to bring about change. These include:

  • ‘The Family Assessment’ (A Bentovim and L Bingly Miller, Child and Family Training, 2012), a model for assessing family competence, strengths and difficulties in complex cases. It focusses particularly on the quality of parenting.
  • ‘The Family Pack of Questionnaires and Scales’ (A Cox and A Bentovim, Department of Health (UK) 2006). The questionnaires and scales accompanied the publication of The Assessment Framework. They are used for information gathering purposes. The Questionnaires and Scales we complete with families most frequently are:
    • The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire which measures the needs of the child in terms of: empathy; hyperactivity; emotional symptoms; conduct problems; and peer problems.
    • The Adult Wellbeing Scale which scores the wellbeing of the parent in terms of: depression; anxiety; outward directed irritability; and inward directed irritability.
    • The Parenting Daily Hassles Scale. This assesses the frequency and intensity of various common parenting experiences which can be a ‘hassle’ to parents.
  • ‘The Safeguarding Children Assessment and Analysis Framework (SAAF), (A Bentovim, A Cox, L Bingly Miller, S Pizzey, S Tapp , Child and Family Training, 2015). This is a model for assisting in the decision making of complex safeguarding cases. It involves the systematic assessment and analysis of the level of harm to the child, the risk of future harm and the prospects for successful intervention.
  • Modules from ‘Hope for Children and Families’ project (Lead Editor A Bentovim, Child and Family Training, 2015). This project produced materials for professionals to work with children and families in difficulty in order to bring about change. The particular resources we use from the programme at Ballyowen are:
    • Working with Parents: Promoting Attachment
    • Working with Parents: Positive Parenting
    • Working with Parents: Promoting Health, Development and Well-being
    • Working with Parents: Targeting Abusive and Neglectful Parenting.
Our team have been trained in the use of these instruments.
Ballyowen Meadows provides a 12-week assessment, which is broken into three phases, a three-week observational assessment, following by six-week intervention piece, before concluding with a three-week observational assessment to monitor capacity and ability to sustain change.

For the first three weeks of the assessment
(Weeks 1-3):

The team members will observe family life and parenting, while carrying out daily detailed observations. Team members will assess strengths and difficulties and plan interventions for the next stage.

The second phase of the assessment (Weeks 4-9):

This is a period of support and intervention for the family. The team will use the Modules from the Hope for Children and Families to work with parents around particular areas where they are finding difficulties and Theraplay to strengthening family relationships This phase is an opportunity to learn.

During the third phase of the assessment
period (Weeks 10-12):

In the final phase of the assessment, the team will observe the family to see how they incorporated what they have learned in the intervention phase and if they can sustain the change.

Modules from the Hope for Children and Families modular systemic Intervention programmes are used during the assessment. The programmes provide a set of evidence-based approaches, resources and tools for assessment intervention and measuring outcomes. The resources are intended to empower children, young people, their families and practitioners when working together – building on strengths and overcoming difficulties. The Interventions that are used are:

Working with Parents: Positive Parenting

This module focuses on helping parents understand factors that lead children to behave in a disruptive fashion, to misbehave, and to help them find ways to turn this around.

The aim is to understand factors associated with the development and maintenance of negative behaviour and to introduce a number of different ways to improve the behaviour through positive approaches. The focus of the modules is on praise and encouragement, active ignoring, giving effective instructions, shaping and managing children’s behaviours and dealing with challenging behaviour through the use of clear boundaries and non-punitive limit setting, including time out and privilege removal.

Promoting Attachment

This module is designed for infants for 0 to 3 years of age, for children of 3 years plus and for adolescents. The module will help the parent and child develop a more secure attachment style, to improve the degree of attunement between the parents and the infant, growing child or young person to improve the quality of their emotional relationships.

The key elements when using this module is to stress the importance of the nature of attachment and to explain the nature of secure and insecure attachments. The module will identify the nature of the attachment between the parents and their child and will help the parent understand the factors which have led to insecure and disorganised attachments and how to help change this.

Working with Parents: Targeting Abusive and Neglectful Parenting

This module is intended for parents who have been responsible for physically, sexually or emotionally abusive actions towards their children or who have seriously neglected their children’s care.

In this module it will give the parent an insight into the understanding of how their abusive and neglectful parenting affects their children’s development. It will give the parents an understanding on how they cope with stress, how this stress can link in with abusive and neglectful parenting and how they can modify and manage this stress. The module also aims to modify the negative perceptions of the children which in the past justified the parents abusive and neglectful actions and will clarify, share and reconcile the impact of the abusive and neglectful parenting has had on the child.

Working with Parents: Promoting Health, Development and Well-being

This module will give the parents an understanding about their child’s development as parents who are responsible for abusive and neglectful parenting can have difficulties and confusion in understanding what their children’s needs are.

In this module, it will give the parent an insight into developing a capacity to identify and understand their children’s physical and emotional needs. It will show the parents how they can promote their children’s development in both the early and later stages of their lives. This module will also allow for a discussion to be had with the parent around how they can ensure their child’s safety; protecting them from harm and how they can provide a good quality of care for their children including their nutritional care.

The principles and practice of Theraplay are incorporated into one to one parent/child games and activities during the intervention and support phase of the assessment.

Theraplay is a child and family therapy for enhancing and building attachment, self-esteem, trust in others, and joyful engagement. It is based on the natural patterns of playful, healthy interaction between a parent and child and is personal, physical, and fun. Theraplay interactions focus on four essential qualities found in parent-child relationships: Structure, Engagement, Nurture, and Challenge.

The goals of Theraplay is to enhance attachment, increase self-regulation, promote trust and joyful engagement and to empower the parents to continue carrying out these positive and healthy interactions on their own with their child. 

Our team have been trained in the Principles and Practice of Theraplay (Level one).