Understanding Staff Influence on the Ecological Group Home Environment

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In response to the need to accurately define group home types, this dissertation focused on providing a clear and distinct definition of the types of group home care, an articulated

In response to the need to accurately define group home types, this dissertation focused on providing a clear and distinct definition of the types of group home care, an articulated understanding of the role of group home staff, and an awareness of the impact individuals working in group homes have on the lives of the youth they serve and their influence on the group home environment. Using the qualitative research method Grounded Theory, ten in-depth interviews were conducted with staff who both currently work in group homes, and staff who have left the group home environment. The research question was “What is the influence of group home staff on the ecological environment of the group home?” Ecological framework was the overarching theory, and participants were asked questions regarding their relationships with youth and their impressions of staff impact within the group home. Data analysis influenced by Grounded Theory produced 5 themes: Walking into the unknown, in loco parentis with two sub- themes consanguinity and group home as a home, engagement with two sub- themes of staff/staff engagement and staff/youth engagement, staff impact on youth, with three sub-themes, managing transitions, loss and boundaries, and the final theme of supervisor support. The results indicate that staff do have an impact on the group home, both positive and negative. Also, the group home operates as an intricate ecological environment containing relationships and interactions that influence multiple internal systems. Currently there is a gap in the literature as it relates to clarity within definition of care settings. This dissertation provided a clear definition for the chosen research environment, non-locked, non-therapeutic group home. The results of this dissertation have implications for group home agencies and more broadly child welfare agencies and child welfare social workers in regard to hiring practices, training and supervision. This dissertation provides a springboard for a future research on the ecological group home environment and the people who work there and are responsible for the care of vulnerable children.