Youth in Residential Facilities: “Am I Safe?,” “Do I Matter?,” and “Do You Care?”
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Youth in residential facilities need to perceive that they are safe. Their perceptions of the quality of treatment and care they receive are affected by how staff behave toward and communication with them as well as by the extent to which they can participate in decisions about their daily lives and futures. To better understand how youth perceive safety and experience residential facilities, we conducted a qualitative study involving eight youths between 16 and 18 years of age living in Norwegian public residential facilities. We investigated 1) their perceptions of safety and 2) their experiences of and reaction to staff behaviors and attitudes. Our findings show that these youths perceive safety as related to their own room and to the people around them. They also indicate that the everyday life of youths can vary: it may be characterized by passivity and by waiting for the start of life or of daily activities, such as school. Our findings about staff attitude and behavior point to the need for youth care services to focus on the communication abilities of staff rather than on the problematic behaviors of youth. These findings have implications for facilities that provide care and treatment to youth.