The relationship between subjective well-being and residential out-of-home care in Spain: the children’s voice

Joan Llosada-Gistau, Gemma Crous, Carme Montserrat - Social Work & Society


In recent years, the collection of data on the subjective well-being of children in the child protection system has begun, albeit tentatively, in some countries. We have examples in Spain with the application of the Children’s Worlds Survey ( to youth in residential and family foster care (Llosada-Gistau et al., 2015; Llosada-Gistau et al., 2017). Studies on health and well-being have also been conducted in Brazil with children in residential homes (Cavalcante et al., 2009; Schütz et al., 2015), and in England with children in foster families (Selwyn & Briheim-Crookall, 2017).

At the same time, there is increasing evidence that two factors contribute enormously to the well-being of those who are involved in the child protection system, not only when they are children, but also in their transition to adulthood. We are referring to (1) stability in life pathways (see studies by Biehal et al., 2015; Sinclair et al., 2007), advising against changes in placement, care homes, social work educators and practitioners, or schools (Cameron et al., 2015). The other factor is (2) giving priority to education from early childhood to promote educational and social opportunities, not only in their present lives but also in the future (Harvey et al., 2015; Jackson & Cameron, 2014). Both factors exert an influence on wellbeing; the more stability children have within the protection system and the greater their inclusion is at school, the greater their life satisfaction (Llosada-Gistau et al., 2015). These factors have also been proven to contribute to child well-being in the general population (Montserrat et al., 2016).

In this article, we aim to look beyond these two factors and examine in greater depth other aspects that have an influence on the lives of the in-care population. This study focuses on 12- 14-year-old adolescents in residential care and identifies factors within the child protection system which, according to the children themselves, have an impact on their subjective wellbeing. It is, therefore, aimed at providing relevant information for practitioners and policymakers.