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SERAR system (assessment and recording system in residential child care): assessing outcomes and monitoring data for children in residential care in Spain



The Child and Family Research Group is working in the field of residential child care with the main aim of creating a set of tools and methodology to make a contribution for evaluation and planning process. In this workshop a monitoring tool to collect relevant data in the process of residential care and to assess developmental and social integration objectives will be presented: SERAR (Sistema de Evaluación y Registro en Acogimiento Residencial) (Assessment and Recording System in Residential Child Care). This tool is used in 9 of the 17 Regional Governments of Spain evaluating more than 7,000 children in near 275 children's homes since 1997. In 2007 a new version was published after a complex validation process.


The main aims of the SERAR system are recording all the relevant information along the residential care process, assessing children needs to design an individual educational plan (also included in this tool), evaluating children achievements systematically, and reporting children evolution every six months as the law requires. Social educators in children's homes are trained to use this tool, and the implementation is supervised during one or two years.

The kind of information collected is framed in an ecological model, including family context (family members, visits and contacts, changes or relevant events...), residential context (date and reason for admission, group characteristics, key social educator...), school context (activities, level, marks...), community (leisure activities, friends...) and labour contexts. Health development and data about the care process and different arrangements are also registered.

In addition to this, the instrument includes a scale of 115 objectives of development and social integration, which must be assessed by care workers once a month. They decide in group the level of achievement reached by every child. According to this assessment, residential workers design an individual plan.

Key findings

Analyzing results from the use of the system in the last years we can conclude that with respect to the monthly evaluation, the highest rates are achieved in the school context where teachers evaluate a good performance both in social behaviour and learning attitude. As it is well known, school marks are one of the most important problems for children in residential care. Data show a more positive result when we evaluate behaviour and attitude apart from marks.

The lowest rates in objectives are found in the family context, with respect to family co-operation and family changes. On one hand objectives to involve families in the educational process and cooperation with educators are very difficult to achieve. On the other hand, objectives focusing family changes (habits, rules, home organisation, etc.) are also hard to be reached. Partnership with parents is an extremely important aspect to improve results according to those data.

Other aspects in the residential context with respect to autonomy and social integration show better results. The lowest rates are those related to social relationship in the community context (friends, clubs, leisure activities...). One of the well known characteristics of residential care in the past was the isolation of children, growing up apart from the rest of children and society in general. Although current residential care emphasises social integration and normalisation, these results show the difficulty to achieve those goals. It would be particularly important to analyse the constraints that prevent from reaching intense social relations.

Results also show a difference between males and females. Girls are better in almost all objectives, especially in school context.

Implications for policy, practice and research

After the experience of using this system for ten years we can summarize the main contribution as follows:

  • The system allows holding information systematically: residences usually collect lots of data and information about children in very different ways. However those data are spread out and very often it is impossible to recuperate them in an organised way.
  • The system collects data to evaluate not only outcomes assessment but also process evaluation.
  • The SERAR facilitates reports to take decisions. Educators can produce reports easily by means of consulting the monitoring system and comment the relevant data and update for each context, including achievement of objectives, changes, new problems, etc.
  • As a main result, with the SERAR use children keep their own personal history. A characteristic consequence of residential care is the lack of personal history because children change of educators and even of children's homes, making up their lives as a continuous change without a sense of permanency. A system keeping the relevant data and experiences of each child provide a basis to achieve the goal of giving a sense of continuity in children lives.

Key references

Del Valle, J.F. (1998) Manual de programación y evaluación para los centros de protección a la infancia. Valladolid: Servicio de Publicaciones de la Junta de Castilla y León.

Del Valle, J.F. and Bravo, A. (2007) SERAR: Sistema de Registro y Evaluación en Acogimiento Residencial. Oviedo: NIERU.

Contact details

Jorge F. Del Valle, Titular Professor of Social Psychology. Director of the Child and Family Research Group. University of Oviedo.
Facultad de Psicología, Plaza Feijoo s/n, 33003, Oviedo, Spain.

Phone: +34 985 103246       Fax: +34 985 104141

Email: jvalle@uniovi.es

Amaia Bravo, Lecturer and Researcher of the Child and Family Research Group, University of Oviedo, Spain. Address as above.

Iriana Santos, Research Assistant. Child and Family Research Group, University of Oviedo, Spain. Address as above.

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