Document Type

Finding a Fit: Family Realities and Service Responses Series (2003, 2007)

Publication Date



Faculty of Social Work


Our purpose in interviewing families who had a child placed in residential children’s mental health treatment was to provide insight into the lives and service experiences of these families as they struggle to care for their child and find appropriate services. As we endeavored to code, categorize, and make sense of the information shared with us by families several other more pointed purposes emerged as integral to our efforts. More specifically we became interested in understanding the functioning of children requiring residential mental health treatment before, during, and after treatment with the aim to comment on general patterns of change for these children across these three time periods. Secondly, we also aimed to characterize parents’ perceptions of their families’ involvement with residential treatment. In particular we address parents’ understanding of the services, their relationships with service providers, and parents’ perceptions of their children’s experiences.

And thirdly, in order to provide a family context for children’s difficulties and the ensuing service involvement, we also discuss family functioning highlighting key family patterns under the domains of work, daily life, and relationships. The inclusion of prevalent family functioning patterns also helps us to address the popular notion that children requiring residential treatment come from highly dysfunctional and potentially 3 harmful families. Each of these three purposes are addressed in turn in an effort to provide a more complete picture of the families involved in residential treatment and their service experiences. We conclude with some implications for service delivery and thoughts to pursue in future investigations.