Representations of 'family' in residential care : perspectives from residential care staff in Zimbabwe

Dadirai Gwenzi, Getrude (2019) Representations of 'family' in residential care : perspectives from residential care staff in Zimbabwe. Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care, 18 (2). ISSN 1478-1840

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There has been an increasing emphasis on the provision of family-style residential care for children in alternative care globally, the aim of which is to create a family environment for children without parental care. Few studies have explored the dynamics within family-style institutions, particularly the relationships between children and residential care staff. Additionally, family-style settings mimic 'real' families, but few studies have explored how the family in residential care is conceptualised. Using empirical evidence from residential caregivers (n=23) in family-style institutions in Zimbabwe, the article discusses how 'family' is represented in residential care, including the challenges associated with this type of paid, non-biological and temporal 'family' form. Study findings suggest that residential caregivers and children live within a physical space that allows them to enact 'family practices', such as eating together and sharing cultural values. However, the behaviour of the children and the rules of child discipline and child rights affect the extent to which residential caregivers can 'parent' in residential care. This brings into question the 'family' nature of residential care. The study makes recommendations for policy and practice related to child welfare practice in residential care.

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