An educational psychologist's perspective in understanding the experiences of residential youth care workers

Carstens, Alison Lee (2007-12)

Thesis (MEdPsych (Educational Psychology)--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.


As primary caregivers (such as residential youth-care workers) are the first teachers of children and spend much more time with the child than any other service provider, educational psychologists need to implement programmes that include primary caregivers in actively working with the youth in their care. This calls for educational psychologists to gain a rich understanding of the experiences of youth-care workers in order to work collaboratively in rehabilitating youth at risk within the youth’s ecosystem. The study attempts to explore the experiences of youth-care workers in residential facilities, using the ecosystemic perspective. A proposed outcome of the research is to contribute to the skills and interventions educational psychologists can use in collaborating with and supporting youth-care workers in residential facilities to rehabilitate youth who are at risk successfully. Qualitative research within the interpretive/constructivist paradigm was employed as the research design. Research was based at two residential facilities in an outlying area of Cape Town, from which four youth-care workers and two youths were drawn as a sample. The data was collected through six semi-structured interviews, observations over a 10-month period at one of the facilities, and photographs of youth-care workers and children. The review of literature and the findings of this research uncovered many experiences that appear to typify residential youth care. These experiences include the multifaceted nature of the role that youth-care workers fulfil in a residential facility; three types of emotional affect experienced by youth-care workers working in facilities; the significance of healthy youth-care worker-child relationships and the importance of these relationships in the successful rehabilitation of youth at risk; and the levels of support and training required in order to perform the task of successfully rehabilitating youth at risk in residential settings.

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