Staffed group homes for children and youth : constructing a theoretical framework for understanding
This research study utilised the grounded theory method as developed by Glaser and Strauss (1967) in order to construct a theoretical framework for understanding the functioning of staffed group homes for children and youth. Ten residential settings in five governmental regions of British Columbia were studied over a period of fourteen months using the techniques of on-site participant observation, transcribed interviews and document analysis. The core theme that emerged from the constant comparative analysis was "congruence". The notions of the "struggle for congruence" and "the flow of congruence" in service of the children's best interests were seen to play a pivotal role in the functioning of group home life and work, and three properties of congruence were identified: consistency, reciprocity and coherence. Three major psychosocial processes also emerged as sub-categories, including: "creating an extrafamilial living environment", the overall task of a home; "responding to pain and pain-based behaviour", the major challenge for staff; and "developing a sense of normality", the primary goal for residents. Completing the framework matrix were eleven key interactional dynamics that were evident across all five levels of operation of the group homes, namely: extra-agency, management, supervision, carework/teamwork, and youth and families. Ten selected residential child and youth care studies published in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States are analysed through the lens of the framework. While seen to be complementary to the related texts, this study brings forward several previously neglected aspects of group home life and work together with more commonly explored notions into an integrated and accessible framework. Implications for residential child and youth care policy development, education, practice and research are proposed.