Differences and similarities in children's and caregivers' perspectives on the quality of residential care in Portugal. A first glance
Keywords:residential child care, institutional care, perceptions of children, perceptions of caregivers, quality evaluation, residential care system in Portugal
Residential care (RC) of children in Portugal has changed without an evaluation of its quality; the alterations were not based on sound criteria. Little research has been carried out in Portugal on residential child care, therefore emphasizing the relevance of a study on the quality assessment of the Portuguese RC system. The results of an exploratory study, as part of a nationwide evaluation of the RC system in Portugal, are hereby presented providing the perspectives of the main actors, i.e. children in care and their caregivers. Six RC centres were visited and 66 children and 62 caregivers were interviewed, using the ARQUA-P system for programme evaluation. Participants' opinions about the quality of the RC services were generally positive but significant intra- and inter-group differences were found. Children evaluated the dimensions 'respect for rights' and 'normalization and integration' in a less positive way than caregivers. Girls evaluated the quality of RC units' services lower than boys in almost every dimension, including 'overall quality'. There were no significant associations between children's age or time spent in care and their evaluation of the 'overall quality' of the centre. However, time spent in care correlated positively with the children's perception of 'safety and protection'. Their age correlated negatively with perceived 'normalization and integration'. Neither caregivers' gender nor their training, was correlated with the perception of 'overall quality'. Younger caregivers evaluated RC centres in a less positive way. The results underline the importance of more research that gives voice to all actors in the process of evaluating residential care, especially to the children and youngsters concerned.