Care or scare: The safety of youth in congregate care in New York City

Madelyn Freundlich, Rosemary J. Avery, Deborah Padgett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This qualitative study examined stakeholders' perceptions of the safety of youth ages 12 and older living in congregate care facilities within the New York City foster care system. The study explored the youth's physical safety, the safety of their personal belongings, the physical conditions of congregate care settings, and the relationship between staff quality and youth safety. Method: The study involved interviews with family court judges, representatives of private child welfare agencies, attorneys who represent children in foster care, social workers, representatives of advocacy and other relevant organizations in New York City, and former foster youth who had been placed in congregate care settings. Results: Safety in congregate care environments was an issue of significant concern. Threats to the youth's safety were found to emanate from peer-on-peer violence, stealing of personal belongings, inappropriate staff conduct, and the poor physical conditions of facilities. Youth's sense of safety was strongly linked to staff quality, including staff ability to relate effectively to youth and to maintain control of congregate care environments. Conclusions: Existing regulations in New York State appear to have had little effect in ensuring the safety of youth in many group and residential care facilities. Steps to improve safety outcomes for youth in these settings are proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-186
Number of pages14
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007


  • Congregate care
  • Foster care system
  • Safety of youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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