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Differential evaluation of residential programmes for children


Background. The effectiveness of residential care programmes has been little researched. Research that analyses and designs quality proposal for residential care responds to a pressing social need.



-        To analyse the progress of children living in residential care using the scale of observed objectives of the Proyecto Educativo Individualizado (Individualized Educational Project).

-        To find out the profile of children who benefit from their stay in residential care.


Method and sample. A quantitative methodology was used. The sample was made up of 175 minors: 78 girls (44.6%) and 97 boys (55.4%). With regard to the reason for admission into care, 22.5% were admitted due to the impossibility of compliance with parental functions, while 77.5% were for the inadequate compliance of these functions. As for the age, 36.6% are between 7 and 11 years old; 41.7% between 12 and 15 and, 21.7% between 16 and 18. With respect to duration of stay, 7.5% had been there less than a year; 29.7% between two and three years; 25.1% between four and five years; 37.7% for more than seven years.


Instrument. The instrument used was the Proyecto Educativo Individualizado (Individualized Educational Project). This is used compulsorily in residential care centres in the Canary Islands Autonomous Region. This instrument includes a monthly observation scale of objectives to assess the progress of minors. The PEI consists of 115 items, which reproduce measurable behaviours. In the following table the dimensions that were evaluated and analysed are shown.



Num. of items

residential context


1.- Personal Autonomy


1.1.- Autonomy in educational obligations


1.2.- Autonomy in the management of resources and independence


1.3.- Autonomy in personal hygiene


2.- Adjustment to residential context


2.1.- Social Integration in the residence


2.2.- Willingness to learn


2.3.- Emotional expression and bonding


2.4.- External social relationships


school context


1.- Social behaviour in school


2.- Interest in learning in school



Procedure. Two separate measurements were taken nine months apart, from the monthly scale of objectives to analyse the level of improvement in achieving the objectives.


Findings. The improvement observed, although not very great, is generalised across all the dimensions evaluated, except for that of social behaviour in school, in which no changes were observed. The improvements observed are statistically significant for the three autonomy dimensions. Significant improvements were also observed in the three dimensions of adjustment to the residential context: willingness to learn in the residence (t=-3,012(171), p=.003), emotional expression and bonding in the residence (t=-2,068(175),p=.040), and external social relationships (t=-3,429(161), p=.001). In the school context there was a significant improvement in the interest in learning in school (t=-3,030(102), p=.003).

Approximately 40% of the minors improved in the dimensions of personal autonomy and adjustment to the residential context, this percentage dropped in adjustment to the school context. Through χ2 contrasts no significant differences were found in function of age or sex in any of the dimensions. As for the type of measure in use, greater progress is observed in those minors who have been taken into custody by order of the authorities (as opposed to those who have been taken into care in request of the parents), and a greater improvement in those minors admitted for inadequate compliance of parental functions compared with those with impossible compliance.

With the aim of checking if a linear relation exists between duration of stay and change observed in the evaluated dimensions, we carried out a Pearson correlation. This showed that there is a tendency to achieve greater improvements the longer the minor stays in residential care centres.


Discussion and conclusion. We draw three main conclusions: one, programmes of residential care have a positive effect on a high percentage of minors, refuting the idea they are negative for everyone. Second, minors, declared as neglected due to the inadequate compliance of parental functions are the ones who obtain greatest benefit from this type of programme. Along the same lines, for children who endure situations of mistreatment, care homes can help not only to protect them but also to give them an appropriate development context. Third, stays that are too short can have negative effects, as well as those that are too long. This appears to show that, depending on the case, stays of between one and three years could be appropriate, though always subordinating time to the achievement of the objectives set in the programme.


Key references

Bravo, A. & Fernández del Valle, J. (2001). Evaluación de la integración social en acogimiento residencial. Psicothema, 13(2), 197-204.

De Paúl, J. (2002). Diferentes situaciones de desprotección infantil. In J. de Paúl & M. I. Arruabarrena (Eds.), Manual de Protección Infantil (pp. 3-23). Barcelona: Masson.

Fernández del Valle, J., Álvarez, E. & Bravo, A. (2003). Evaluación de resultados a largo plazo en acogimiento residencial de protección a la infancia. Infancia y Aprendizaje, 26(2), 235-249.


Contacts: Ángela Torbay Betancor, University of La Laguna, Facultad de Psicología. Universidad de La Laguna, Campus de Guajara, s/n, 38205, La Laguna. Tenerife, Islas Canarias. España, E-mail: atorbay@ull.es, Phone34 922317549.



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