Tohoro Francis Akakpo, PhD, MSW, MPA

Staff attitudes and beliefs about family involvement of delinquent children in residential programs

This study was established in the belief that it is impor­tant to expand our knowledge base regarding the attitudes and beliefs of staff working with juvenile delinquents in residential settings in order to determine to what extent policies and established best practices are integrated into the practices of employees. Both quantitative and qualitative elements were used for the five goals of the study, which were to:

  1. Explore the attitudes and beliefs of workers at all levels of staffing in a mid-sized Midwestern agency
  2. Test the hypothesis that staff attitudes and beliefs contribute to whether family involvement is valued at a residential facility
  3. Assess the performance of the professionals working with youth entrusted to their care and their families, consistent with social work principles of professional integrity and competence
  4. Examine the effectiveness and the extent of the support of the paradigm shift in service delivery to children from child-centered to a family-centered practice that encourages reuniting families
  5. Examine the implementation of recent federal and state policies that prioritize family involvement in child welfare and treatment 

Because of the limited scope of literature on staff members’ attitudes and beliefs about families of delinquent children in residential programs, the findings in the study advance the existing literature regarding residential treatment from the perspective of staff. The findings are grounded in the staff members’ perceptions of their experience of working with delinquent children and their families.

Overall, the findings suggest that the majority of the agency staff support family involvement. It seems clear that staff members recognize a link between a child’s eventual return to his/her home and activities designed to involve families during his/her placement. But while this study identifies many agency strengths and that the role of family is indeed pivotal, there is still room for improvement in involving families in residential treatment of delinquent teens in residential settings.