This study examines the link between perceived staff support and emotional and behavioral adjustment diﬃculties of adolescents in residential care settings designed for youth from underprivileged backgrounds in Israel. It also examines the moderating role of adolescents’ length of stay in the residential care setting in the link between staﬀ support and adolescent adjustment.
Methods: The study was based on a cluster random sample of 1,409 youth, aged 13 to 20, in Israeli educational residential care settings for youth from underprivileged backgrounds, who completed a structured questionnaire in their settings, using an adaptation of the Social Support Network Questionnaire (SSNQ; Gee & Rhodes, 2007), designed to measure the delivery of various basic types staff support, including emotional support, tangible assistance, cognitive guidance, and social participation.
Multivariate regression models, using PROCESS analysis via SPSS, were used to test the moderating effect of adolescent length of stay in the current residential care setting on the association between staﬀ support and adolescent adjustment diﬃculties. Adolescent’s age, gender, birth country, parents’ marital status, and father and mother support were held as covariates
Results: The adolescents reported an average of medium to high level of staﬀ support. Being female, Israeli-born, and perceiving greater parental support were found to be positively correlated with perceived staﬀ support. Staﬀ support was associated negatively with adolescent adjustment diﬃculties, above and beyond the contribution of parents’ support. A signiﬁcant interaction was found between length of stay and staﬀ support in predicting adjustment diﬃculties. Speciﬁcally, among adolescents residing for longer periods in the residential care setting, there was a stronger link between staﬀ support and fewer adjustment diﬃculties.
Conclusions and implications:
The current study has potentially important implications for child welfare professionals and policymakers. Overall, the study demonstrates that residential child care staﬀ are highly involved in the lives of adolescents in residential care, and are important to their adjustment. The child care policy agenda should give further attention to the role of residential care settings staﬀ. Recruiting and maintaining a high-quality staﬀ and providing training, consultation, and ongoing clinical supervision are essential to supporting staﬀ in their important role.
The positive links between perceived support from parents and perceived support from staﬀ emphasize the need to develop therapeutic and policy models that aim to support healthy parent-child contact.
The signiﬁcant interaction found between length of stay and staﬀ support in predicting fewer adjustment diﬃculties highlights the importance of identifying groups of children who might beneﬁt from longer placements in residential care settings, as part of the decision-making process for children in out of home placements.