Female Care Leavers’ Experience of the Staff-Child Relationship While Living in an Intensive Support Children's Home in Northern Ireland

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Background and purpose: Compassion and human connection are core social work values and as such they inform our interventions in all settings. It is generally recognised that young people need love and positive attention to thrive, but residential care provision often focuses on the more practical physiological and safety needs of young people. This study uses a narrative synthesis of literature followed by an innovative methodology to gather the perspectives of young women who have experienced residential childcare. These have been analysed to investigate how the actions and attitudes of residential staff impact on the young people in their care.

Methods: A narrative synthesis of current literature was used as the basis of an in-depth qualitative study examining female adult care leavers’ experience of the staff child relationship. The method of self-characterisation was chosen as an empowering and enjoyable way to gather the stories of young people. It was supported by semi-structured interviews to provide valuable insights into the unique experience of 5 members of a hard to reach population.

Findings: The review of the literature identified the themes of trust, continuity and reciprocity as important aspects of relationships with staff. These were echoed in the research findings where young people appreciated sharing time and space, honest open communication and acceptance. Respondents recounted small acts of thoughtfulness by staff although at the time they may not have been in a position to fully appreciate this compassion. Young people differentiated between staff who were caring and those who were not. This article will discuss the value of compassion and consider the reasons why some staff can be perceived as emotionally distant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalChild Care in Practice
Early online date21 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished online - 21 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2020 The Child Care in Practice Group.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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