Jorge Fernández del ValleUniversity of Oviedo, Spain
Attention to the emotional and behavioural problems of adolescents in residential care in the protection system: current situation and proposals for improvement
In Spain, some 15,000 minors are cared for in foster homes for protection reasons. Of them, 70% are over 12 years of age and about half of them are over 15 years of age. Thus, residential care is a kind of service that is specializing in adolescents, many of them with severe emotional and behavioural problems because of the serious adverse situations they have experienced in their family environment in childhood. This presentation will address three main issues: a) Description of the most frequent disorders presented by this group of young people and the therapeutic services they are receiving; b) Results obtained with the treatments carried out, measured by means of a two-year longitudinal study; c) Analysis of specialized residential programs for adolescents with serious behavioural problems (included in the reform of the Organic Law on the Legal Protection of Minors). These data will enable us to draw conclusions about how residential care services should address the needs of this at-risk group of young people. The ineffectiveness of these interventions is causing these boys and girls to run an enormous risk of social exclusion when they reach the age of majority.
Jorge Fernández del Valle has worked as a social educator and psychologist in residential foster care, as well as in the family intervention program of the Municipal Centre of Social Services in the city of Oviedo. Since 1992, he has been dedicated exclusively to the University, and is currently Professor of Psychosocial Intervention at the University of Oviedo. He is director of the GIFI (Family and Childhood Research Group) (www.grupogifi.com), whose main line is the evaluation both of residential and family foster care programs, and the development of instruments that facilitate the work of professionals in this field (such as the SERAR: Registration and Evaluation System in Residential Foster Care; or the PLANEA: skills acquisition program for independent living). In residential care, the group has been evaluating protection centres and homes for many years and developing quality criteria, having directed the publication of the national standards for the Ministry of Health, Social Services, and Equality (2013). It has also evaluated foster care programs and developed some support tools for professionals. As a researcher, Jorge Fernández del Valle belongs to important international groups such as the INTRAC networks (research on transitions to independent living from child protection), the International Research Network on Foster Care and the APFEL network for the Promotion of Foster Care in Europe. He is also a member of the steering committee of EUSARF (European Scientific Association on Residential & Family Care for Children and Adolescents). In his research work, he has published numerous scientific articles, as well as manuals and books aimed at the professional field of family and residential care. The latest of these, “Therapeutic Residential Care for Children and Youth” (Whittaker, Del Valle, & Holmes, 2014), is an international review of residential care for children and young people with serious emotional and behavioural problems.