Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Social issues, Social work.

Publication Details

Sucessfully submitted for the award of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) to the Technological University Dublin, January, 2011.


This study seeks to better understand the organisational factors that impact on provision of
frontline residential care in Ireland. An historical overview of Irish residential youth care clarifies factors which shaped it by contriving to establish a system of residential youth care which catered for large numbers of children in institutions run by Catholic religious orders. A social risk model of care prevailed in Ireland, focused on the segregation and control of children by enforcement of a regimented, sectarian regime. Despite the fact that the Irish
Child Care Act 1991 which currently regulates residential child and youth care mandates
youth care services to provide developmental care for residents (s18.3), this study recognises that remnants of a former model can outlive the model itself. Current understanding of developmental child and youth care acknowledges interconnectedness
between systems in the ecological environment of the developing child. This study therefore seeks better understanding of how decisions taken at the exo or broader organisational level of residential youth care services impact the lived experience of the
young person in residential care. The study is guided by a constructivist perspective. Its relativist ontology, subjectivist epistemology and hermeneutic methodology guided the selection of research respondents from first-line residential care managers and their line managers (referred to in the study as directors of frontline services). Purposive sampling which used a nomination technique yielded 17 respondents from eight different residential services across the four regions of the Health Service Executive (HSE). The narrative
accounts of all respondents, gained from use of semi-structured interviews, yielded rich data on their experience of providing care for young residents. HyperResearch (a computer aided software package for qualitative analysis) aided coding and content analysis of all narratives. Critical success factors, a ‘new managerialist’ construct, was used as a
framework for organisation and presentation of the data. Five critical success factors of Irish residential child and youth care emerged and are presented as being central to the active achievement of developmental care for all young people in Irish residential care. Six out of the eight participating residential services were found to be providing developmental care for their young residents. The two services deemed not to be providing developmental care were structured as rigid bureaucratic organisations which were micro managed by senior administrative managers who prioritised the goals of the service over the needs of
individual young people. The six services providing developmental care were structured as either simple structures (Mintzberg 1983) most commonly found in smaller voluntary services, or self-contained task structures (Galbraith 1977) within the broader HSE
structure. Both of these organisational design structures provided the necessary protection
for the frontline residential service from bureaucratic decisions taken at the broader organisational level. These services succeeded in providing developmental care through their directors who had both authority and domain expertise, effectively monitoring the commitment of frontline staff to on-going prioritisation of needs-led care for young residents.