Following 17 years as Chief Executive of Childhood First and 40 years spanning academia, international development and children’s services, Stephen Blunden is retiring.  On 1 April, he hands over the reins of this leading provider of psychotherapeutic residential care for Looked After Children to his successor, Gary Yexley.  Stephen will support Gary in post until his departure on 7 June.   

Stephen has steered the organisation from being a provider of traditional ‘therapeutic communities’, at a time when these had fallen out of favour, to leader in the field of specialist psychotherapeutic residential care for Looked After Children.  In clinical, academic and statutory excellence, the organisation is recognised as a beacon in the field.

Childhood First now has four outstanding contemporary psychotherapeutic homes, with a fifth shortly to open, and a sixth at the planning stage.  We have a therapeutic special school and a pilot therapeutic fostering service.  All of our care and education staff are trained in our unique Integrated Systemic Therapy approach, accredited by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy.  Thus, all of our children are looked after by qualified psychotherapeutic professionals 24/7.

Building on his experience with Cambridge University, Stephen has developed the leading clinical training and research Institute in children’s residential care. The Institute of Integrated Systemic Therapy is currently conducting fifteen research studies aimed at improving outcomes for seriously disturbed children and young people.

It has been a privilege to lead this work, alongside our inspiring children and colleagues.  I am delighted that Gary has been chosen by our trustees as my successor.  There is nobody who better understands therapeutic residential children’s care and our psychotherapeutic approach.  Gary’s love for the organisation’s spirit and values is also second to none.  I know that under his leadership the charity, and the children who come to us, will go from strength to strength.

Stephen Blunden

Gary has over 20 years’ experience with Childhood First, leading specialist therapeutic care for children and developing new services, including as Therapeutic Services Director.  Gary is a UKCP-accredited psychotherapeutic professional with a Tavistock MA, who also holds an MBA specialising in the Healthcare sector.  Gary was appointed following a national search which attracted a strong field of charity and clinical professionals hoping to lead this 100-year pioneering organisation.

It is my pleasure and honour to lead the organisation at this time, building upon the work of my predecessor, Stephen Blunden. I am looking forward to steering the charity into the future, continuing to improve and develop new services to meet the needs of some of the most traumatised children and young people in the U.K.

Gary Yexley