KERRY is laughing.

"You're a wee wide-o," one of the day workers at Action for Children's Stoneside Family Support Base has just called out to her.

Kerry, who has global development delay, lives in the permanent residential accommodation which is at the core of the service.

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Although significantly disabled - she communicates mainly through sign language - the nine-year-old is being reprimanded for leaving the table without taking her dishes to the sink.

She makes good the error, then tries to persuade anyone within range to sing "five little speckled frogs" to her.

Kerry is one of three children with very challenging needs, and traumatised by their early-life experience, who have been placed with the Action for Children service by Glasgow City Council.

She, 11-year-old Derek, and seven-year-old Brian are expected to remain in care.

Kerry receives visits from her sister and goes to see her grandmother, but is not likely to go back to live with her mother.

The council is investing in a relatively unusual model - long-term care in a family setting provided by the charity.

The base also supplies intensive support for dozens of local families whose children have very challenging needs.

It is quite rare for such young children to be permanently in care and the investment for Glasgow is significant. However, the cost of early intervention is expected to be cheaper than the unsettled placements and possibly high social costs which might occur with these troubled children in other settings.

When I first visited, just over a year ago, all three children had moved in relatively recently. They appeared fairly settled then and bonds were newly forming between the children.

Now, however, the difference in all the children is marked. Derek, in particular, appeared restless and distracted before, but now is now noticeably more healthy in appearance - not so skinny and more relaxed. The feeling that this is a family home is stronger.

The domestic dynamic is evident, with large canvas photoprints of the three full-time residents on the walls, and Brian wandering in to ask what's for tea before attempting to rummage in the cupboards himself.

The model is still proving itself, but Action for Children hope to expand it, and is currently developing a home on similar lines in Northumberland.