Academic journal article Child Welfare

Young People's Satisfaction with Residential Care: Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses in Service Delivery

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Young People's Satisfaction with Residential Care: Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses in Service Delivery

Article excerpt

This paper presents findings from a landmark Australian study investigating the experiences and perspectives of young people in residential care. Data from a representative sample are analyzed to identify young people's satisfaction with various aspects of their residential care experience: their sense of safety, normality, support, comfort in general living environment, participation in decisionmaking, and improvements in well-being. Findings point to strengths and weaknesses in current service delivery. The vast majority of respondents felt safe and well-treated and satisfied with the care and support provided by staff. Respondents were less commonly satisfied with the care and support provided by caseworkers, their participation in higher order decisionmaking, their sense of normality, and the amount of contact with their families. Compared with older respondents, younger respondents less commonly expressed satisfaction with various aspects of their care. Similarly, those reporting more placements were less satisfied with their care and support than those reporting fewer placements.

Despite compelling arguments being advanced in recent years for listening to children in care (e.g. Gilligan, 2000), relatively little research to date has investigated their views and experiences of being in care (Bromfield èc Osborn, 2007; Gilbertson èc Barber, 2002). Where such research has been conducted, various practical and methodological factors have often undermined the external validity and reliability of findings (Bromfield èc Osborn, 2007). A particularly notable issue has been the difficulty of obtaining representative samples of children in state care where researchers are required to go through various 'gatekeepers' to recruit participants (Delfabbro, Barber, èc Bentham, 2002; Gilbertson èc Barber, 2002; Heptinstall, 2000; New South Wales Community Services Commission, 2000). Caregivers, social workers, government officials, and research ethics committees have often prevented children's participation in research that explores their views and experiences on the assumption that such research will be distressing to them and therefore contrary to their best interests (Leeson, 2007; Mason, Urquhart, èc Bolzan, 2003).

Despite these practical and methodological challenges, previous studies into the views of children in care have identified themes relevant to children's well-being and satisfaction in care. The importance of feeling safe, being adequately supported and cared for, having a sense of comfort and normality where they are living, being provided with information, and being listened to and given a say in decisions related to their lives are all strongly recurrent themes in this research (see Anglin, 2002; Cashmore èc O'Brien, 2001; Children's Rights Director for England, 2009; CREATE Foundation, 2004, 2006; Dearden, 2004; Delfabbro et al., 2002; Leeson, 2007; New South Wales Community Services Commission, 2000; Thomas èc O 'Kane, 1999). With the exception of a few studies, however, this research has not focused on the views and experiences of young people in residential care. Moreover, owing to their predominantly qualitative design, few studies have been able either to identify the extent to which particular areas of need are being satisfied relative to others or assess the relative satisfaction of particular subgroups within the care population. Such analyses are important to understanding the strengths and weaknesses in service delivery to young people.

The Present Study

The Views of Young People in Residential Care study, conducted by the Queensland Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian (CCYPCG), commenced in 2007. The research context and design enable the study to overcome a number of the limitations identified in previous research. This paper describes the study's context and methodology and presents findings from the second in its series of surveys of young people in residential care. …

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