Learning as Intervention: A new Approach to Residential Care for Children and Youth

This project seeks to address the often unsatisfactory outcomes of residential care for young people in living in state care. The project is based on an international partnership between scholars and practice leaders in Canada and Germany. Residential care in both countries, and across the OECD, often lacks coherent theoretical frameworks, and specific conceptual foundations that might assist young people in navigating the complexities of entering emerging adulthood. In Canada, residential care is driven primarily by treatment considerations, which have consistently produced unsustainable outcomes, leading young people transitioning out of residential care to experience high levels of dysfunktion in their lives. In Germany, residential care services are based on a framework of social pedagogy, which provides an alternative to the treatment approach common in Canada, and has promising features that might strengther residential care in Canada if meaningfully considered in a Canadian context.

Our focus is on the processes of LEARNING, articulated as a synergistic concept incorporating both education (school-based performance) and Bildung, a German concept denoting a young person's engagement of their relationship with Self, with others, and with the world around him. This formulation is based on extensive research form across OECD jurisdictions that education and Bildung are fundamental for sustainable outcomes for young people, and that these factors play a greater role in the successful transition to emerging adulthood (or return to family) than treatment outcomes defined as clinical progression in the context of psych-social measures. This project is unique and potentially system-changing inasmuch as it seeks to position a focus on LEARNING as an alternative to medical models and treatment orientations in residential care. As such, it provides opportunities to enact change at all levels of the residential care system, including the policy level, the practice level and even the research level. The project focuse on all of these levels, but is particularly concerned with changing the culture of service delivery in both Canadian and German contexts such that residential care results in fundamentally better prepared young people as they exit the care system.

At a pragmatic level, we aim to develop approaches to residential care that improve the education outcomes of young people in care, while at the same time ensuring that the concept of LEARNING is developed operationally beyond school-related activities and performance. From a research perspective, this project will be the first to look in depth at learning processes unfolding in residential care contexts across geographies. With our practice partners, we aim to implement a mixed-methods research effort that includes quantitative elements, as well as elements of ethnography an qualitative activities such as focus groups and interviews so that the perspectives on learning are fully captured from multiple perspectives. While the project proposed here is limited to a focus on residential group care in Canada and Germany, the project is designed such that it can be expanded to the whole range of settings where young people are in care with implications across OECD jurisdictions.


Prof. Dr. Kiaras Gharabaghi (Ryerson U Toronto, ON)

Prof. Dr. Doug Magnuson (U Victoria, BC)

Prof. Dr. Stefan Köngeter (Universität Trier)

JProf. Dr. Maren Zeller (Universität Trier)

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schröer (Universität Hildesheim)


Kooperationspartner Praxis:

Bayfield Treatment Centres Wellington

Diakonieverbund Schweicheln e. V. Berlin Geltow

Ev. Stiftung Overdyck, Bochum

Kinark Child and Family Services


studentische Mitarbeit:

In diesem Projekt besteht die Möglichkeit für Studierende auf unterschiedliche Weise mitzuwirken: z. B. im Kontext von Modulabschlussprüfungen (Hausarbeiten, v. a. im MA), Abschlussarbeiten (BA, MA), studentische Hilfskräfte, Research-Aufenthalt bei einem der kanadischen Partner.


studentische Mitarbeiter:

Martina Pokoj (B.A.)

Lilith Voßwinkel (B.A.)



04/2015 - 03/2018

Gefördert durch:

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada