Date of Submission



Residential care provides for approximately 500 children and young people in Victoria each year, yet the dynamics of providing care within this system have received little scholarly attention, at least in part because it forms a much smaller part of the system than home-based care – in 2014 there were 5,900 children and young people in foster care and kinship care in Victoria. It has long been recognised that, despite being highly traumatised and vulnerable, young people placed in the care of the state are often exposed to further distress, instability and torment because of the nature of the out-of-home care system, and the available literature confirms that this is certainly true in residential care. Central to the care these young people receive, and their experience of being ‘in care’, are the agents through which the care is delivered: residential care workers. This thesis fills a gap in knowledge by examining the perspectives and practice of residential care workers, asking how they understand their ability to support good outcomes for children and young people within the restrictions of residential care settings which are far from perfect.

This thesis presents the findings of a qualitative study of interviews with twelve residential care workers that was guided by the principles of grounded theory. Led by the themes which emerged from these interviews, this project examines the pillars of good practice as residential care workers themselves understand them – both those which they can directly articulate, and those which are part of their tacit knowledge.

The findings point to three key areas. Using the framework of ‘care’ as provided by Tronto, the three areas that emerged were (i) caring about, (ii) taking care of and (iii) care giving. At the heart of these areas are the concepts of being rooted in genuine relationships, trauma informed practice and connection to the community. These findings point to guiding principles that residential care workers see as helping them to be effective in not only doing their job, but also in providing authentic and personal care to the young people.


School of Arts

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


122 pages

Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (MPhil)


Faculty of Education and Arts

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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