‘Am I Supposed to be in a Prison or a Mental Hospital?’ The Nature and Purpose of Secure Children's Homes

Caroline Andow

Secure children's homes are locked institutions that deprive children of their liberty. The government are investing significantly in these homes, yet there remains a lack of clarity about their nature and purpose. Drawing on data generated through a substantial ethnography in one secure children's home in England, this paper uses Goffman's (1961) theorising as a conceptual lens to view the institution.

It concludes that ambiguity and confusion  about  what  these  institutions  are,  and  what  they seek to achieve, impacts negatively on the experience of everyday life within. Clarity is needed urgently to improve experiences and to enable the assessment of outcomes.