The residential care setting brings a world of children or adolescents together with a world of adults, often one adult acting alone — the group care worker. It also brings a world of those who are considered, for one reason or another, "not properly socialized" — whom the prevalent educational and care approaches seek to change-together with a world of those who know the "proper" social codes and are expected to generate the desired change in the ones who don’t by intervening in the course of their maturation.

Thus, no matter how liberal they are, residential settings and their staffs intervene in their charges’ maturation process. This results from the goals of the residential setting and the nature of the people acting in it: adults vis-à-vis youth, group care workers vis-à-vis those under their care. This intervention leads the youth to regard the group care worker as a somewhat coercive figure. In these circumstances, the youth often resist or seek to limit the group care worker’s intervention.

This situation is not the function of a specific culture or residential setting and the method of care practiced in it, but results largely from the coercive intervention of socializing action. Group care workers tend to channel their charges into processes of change that are often stressful. Consequently, the group care worker is liable to be an unpopular figure, and his or her interaction with the youth sometimes teeters on the verge of crisis. The group care worker’s experience of being on the verge of crisis disrupts the work and leads to a feeling which will be described here as discontent.


From the Introduction to Arieli, M. (1997). The occupational experience of residential child and youth care workers: Caring and its discontents. Child & Youth Services, vol.18 (2) p.1