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Ethical issues, research and vulnerability : gaining the views of children and young people in residential care

Kendrick, Andrew and Steckley, Laura and Lerpiniere, Jennifer (2008) Ethical issues, research and vulnerability : gaining the views of children and young people in residential care. Children's Geographies, 6 (1). pp. 79-93. ISSN 1473-3285

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Children and young people in residential care are some of the most vulnerable in our society. They may have experienced violence and physical, sexual or emotional abuse. They may be involved in offending or the misuse of drugs and alcohol. They are separated from their families and have to cope with living in a group situation with other young people and staff members. Children and young people in residential care also possess strengths, competencies and resilience. We have much to learn from their experiences and perspectives, both generally and surrounding their time in care. This paper will address the ethical issues which arise from gaining the views of children and young people in residential care, drawing on the experience of carrying out three studies in particular (Kendrick et al. 2004, The development of a residential unit working with sexually aggressive young men. In: H.G. Eriksson and T. Tjelflaat, eds. Residential care: horizons for the new century. Aldershot: Ashgate, 38-55; Docherty et al. 2006, Designing with care: interior design and residential child care. Farm7 and SIRCC. http://www.sircc.strath.ac.uk/publications/Designing_with_Care.pdf; Steckley, L. and Kendrick, A., 2005. Physical restraint in residential child care: the experiences of young people and residential workers. Childhoods 2005: Children and Youth in Emerging and Transforming Societies, University of Oslo, Norway, 29 June-3 July 2005, Steckley and Kendrick 2007, Young people's experiences of physical restraint in residential care: subtlety and complexity in policy and practice. In: M. Nunno, L. Bullard and D. Day, eds. For our own safety: examining the safety of high-risk interventions for children and young people. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America, forthcoming). The paper will discuss: information, consent and choice about involvement in the research; confidentiality, privacy and safety. It will also explore some of the more complex issues of ethical good practice which arise from researching children in their own living space. The negotiation of children's time and space must be approached carefully, with consideration of their rights and wishes. Sensitivity to children and young people's priorities and preoccupations must be paramount.