Speaker - Relationship based residential child care practice in a context of fear

Teresa Brown, Karen Winter, Nicola Carr

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The objectives are: first, to inform the audience about the context of residential child care in Ireland; second, using concepts associated with the sociology of fear, to present the results from a small scale exploratory study regarding the experiences of residential child care workers and relationship based practice.
There were four stages to the research, and this paper largely reports on stages 2 and 3: Stage 1: Literature review regarding legal, policy and practice developments in residential child care; Stage 2: A qualitative methodology involving in-depth interviews with 27 residential child care workers using appreciative inquiry as an informing framework; Stage 3: Analysing findings using a framework informed by concepts associated with the sociology of fear; and Stage 4: Assessing implications for practice.
Qualitative interviews underpinned by anapproach known as Appreciative Inquiry (AI). This is based on what is referred to as the 4-D cycle (Carter, 2006). The first phase is known as discovery (the best of what is or has been); the second as dreaming (what might be); the third as designing (what should be); and the fourth phase as destiny what will be (Carter, 2006). In the interview process the first two phases of 4-D cycle (discovery-dreaming) were focused on to help research participants open-up and engage in the interview process. A semi-structured interview schedule was used to guide thinking regarding relationship-based practice.
Data analysis
Data analysis involved a thematic approach involving four stages: immersion; coding; categorising and gener- ation of themes (Braun and Clarke, 2006). Repeated reading and re-reading of interview transcripts and field notes drew attention to key themes. In the final stage of the process,the construction of a thematic map under- pinned by the broad conceptual framework of Furedi (2005, 2006) and Furedi and Bristow (2008) and further operationalised by the Tudor model (2003) allowed for reflection on the themes and any common links between them.
It is surprising to discover how far the culture of fear has shaped and informed the daily practice of the residen- tial childcare workers interviewed in this study. From the findings are discussed three main themes, reflective of the work of Furedi (2005; 2006) are discussed: construction of adults as ‘predatory monsters’; individualisa- tion of risk; and safe practice.
The findings in this paper challenge policy developers to think again about the sector. Rather than consign residential child care to the ‘backwaters’, a more productive policy response involves investing in models of residential child care practice that do have a positive impact. A reconfigured policy response, combined with a focus on assessing service provision in collaboration with children and young people could lead to change. These two structural responses must co-exist with investment in and commitment to the residential child care workforce. The lack of recognition of the elements that make up relationship-based practice at the micro level and that include the use of personality; the body; and use of self as a social subject, needs to be challenged and changed. This can only be achieved through creating space for dialogue with residential child care staff as their accounts of their experiences are central to any reform of their training, their approach in professional practice and their status. It is hoped that the findings from this small-scale study help contribute to efforts in this direction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages414 - 415
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sep 2018
EventXV Conference of the European Scientific Association on Residential and Family Care for Children and Adolescents (EUSARF) - Porto, Portugal
Duration: 02 Oct 201805 Oct 2018


ConferenceXV Conference of the European Scientific Association on Residential and Family Care for Children and Adolescents (EUSARF)
Abbreviated titleEUSARF 2018


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