Ashdale Care CEO Paula tells us how she fulfilled her vision of a very different kind of care home for children.

The story of Ashdale Care Ireland began back in the 1990s, when Social Work student Paula Kane observed how traumatised children were placed in institutions and expected to conform, when they felt worthless and detached from society.

As Paula went to work in the social care field she recalls: “My experiences in different settings in the field of Social Work only served to entrench my understanding that these children had no voice, no choice, no control over their life pathway. This only caused them further trauma and reinforced their negative view of the world and their sense of worthlessness, hopelessness and no sense of belonging.’’

She says: “As a field Social Worker, I visited with many children in children’s homes and was pretty horrified with the conditions and environments they were living in. I knew that the pain they were experiencing was reinforced by their belief that they were ‘worthless’ and didn’t deserve to be anywhere better. 

“The environments were cold, damp, dreary and felt unsafe. I come from the ethos that ‘children are a product of their environment’, and I knew that children would never recover within environments where they didn’t feel safe or in any way feel part of the environment. Every child has the right to live in a familial, domestic environment and experience a near-to-normal ‘home’ where they feel loved and cared for within a ‘home’ that is warm and nurturing.’’

Paula introduced the concept of these familial care homes in Ireland, opening the first Independent Residential Home for up to four children in 1991.

Thirty years on and the Ashdale Care method of looking after these children is thriving, with 12 homes caring for children and young people, and at least another three in the pipeline as you read this.

Once Paula had established her first home, she had an even bigger task on her hands – to develop a greater understanding of all of the true needs of these children, taking into account their trauma and attachment experiences and their pain-based behaviours.

She recalls: “I was so fortunate on my journey to meet so many like-minded professionals from different disciplines who educated me, and my team, on the significant impact of trauma and attachment on a child and on their development. These people were also passionate about the needs of these children and were committed to making a difference. They taught me, and continue to teach me, so much and have worked within our Ashdale Services from the outset to create the Model of Care we now operate.’’

Now, with a community of staff on board who show the same passion, commitment, resilience, knowledge, skills and compassion as Paula, they are creating an environment that is supportive, caring, understanding and respectful of the children’s experiences. 

So, with Ashdale Care leading the way in Ireland, does Paula see this kind of care being used around the globe? “It should be the norm in every culture that values children and recognises that they are the future and will carry the mantle forward within society,’’ she says. “Ashdale has already commenced the journey of ‘infecting’ others across the world within the CARE International platform that we are on with 61 other organisations across the world, America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand…’’

 Three decades on from being that Social Work student, with a growing organisation, a community of staff who all share the same ideals, and a number of homes helping children through their therapeutic journey, what is Paula’s proudest achievement?

“My children,’’ she says, “and next to this, the culture and ethos within the Ashdale Community. My proudest and most emotional moments are those I experience when I visit the homes and feel the ethos and atmosphere within them that has been created and nurtured by our amazing people within Ashdale who demonstrate that passion and commitment to our children and young people can enable their recovery journey, no matter what.’’

Read more about the story of Ashdale at, and if you are interested in joining the team, find out more about careers, development and vacancies at