Sample Social Work and Human Services Paper on Out-of-home Care Domains

Belonging, Relationships, and Accepting Environments

Children and youths under foster care deserve to be in safe, respectful places where they are treated with dignity. Understanding the needs of children in such places can help determine the specific elements of care that need to be addressed in order to make life more bearable for them. The 12 domains blueprint provided by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services and the Residential Services Youth Panel describe the particular features of care that are required for children under care to be accorded the quality of care they need. One of the domains is described as the belonging, relationships, and accepting environments domain. This domain consists of various elements namely, a sense of belonging, respect of dignity, meaningful relationships, safety and accessibility, and transparency of rules and procedures (Ministry of Children and Youth Affairs, 2016). Each of these elements describes specific indicators that point towards quality care for children and youths.

The belonging element under the domain provides indicators such as inclusion in the planning and execution of day to day activities; supporting all children and youths in out-of-home care for the development of life records; freedom to decorate personal spaces of those children and youths with personal items; supporting children to attend their regular life events; and satisfying the right to privacy and provision of recreational equipment which are in good working environment (The Student Commission, 2017). The indicators of the second item, respect and dignity, includes treatment of youths as unique individuals; respect of the youths and children by the staff and other people associated with the out-of-home care system; providing children with access to personal space and their personal belongings; maintaining confidentiality and privacy of the children; and not putting on uniforms associated with the care setting; and according youths with the level of autonomy that they need (Ministry of Children and Youth Affairs, 2017). Other items in the domain are also described by the blueprint and they include development of meaningful relationships with caregivers, not taking away the privileges of children and youths, and encouraging sibling relationships under the meaningful relationships category; the requirement for the home to meet children and youth’s accessibility needs, promoting the feeling being safe and training to cope with challenges under the safety and accessibility item; and discussing rules and regulations, working in collaboration with children to establish alternative rules, and providing a safe space for negotiating procedures under the transparency of rules item.

Importance of the Domain

Belonging, relationships, and accepting environments care domain is important to children as well as youths. Various studies have demonstrated the benefits of a feeling of belonging to youths. For instance, King and Boyd (2016) posit that adolescents developed an overall sense of well-being when they felt that they belong to a certain social setting. The care context provides a home to which all youths would desire to belong. The sense of belonging and relationships within a family encompass feelings of inclusion, the ability to have fun together, feelings of being understood, and feelings of receiving attention from the adults with whom they interact. Through the meaningful relationships created, children and youths can communicate specific challenges that they face thus accept assistance from adults. Accordingly, the blueprint elucidates various outcomes that are associated with the different items under the domain, each of which contributes to the development of feelings of belonging and acceptance among the children and the youths. The domain therefore is important in addressing an emotional aspect of care, which is quite easily forgotten.

Current Status of Belonging, Relationships and Accepting Environment

While it is evident that young children and youths under care need to have a sense of belonging and to be shown acceptance even in foster care, there is still a gap in providing the level of belonging and accepting environment that they may require. Hedin (2014) argues that for small children, it has been relatively easy for caregivers to provide the level of support and acceptance needed, unlike among youths, who influence their care and belongingness a lot. Youths are particularly active agents in making and breaking their own interpersonal relationships, resulting in a feeling of inadequacy, lack of belonging and broken relationships. Moreover, once they have broken those relationships, they develop feelings about being unwanted in the care system.

Over (2016) also describs the implications of feelings of belonging, relationships and acceptance does to individuals, children and adults alike. Maintaining happy relationships and creating personal relationships both within and outside the home can be difficult due to the dynamics of human activities, attitudes, and needs. The practice of maintaining happy relationships or staying in supportive communities is not a straight forward function, and changes occur from time to time. Therefore, understanding the rationale of the changes is an essential part of the progress from childhood to adulthood. Consequently, the status of belonging, relationships or feelings of acceptance in the contemporary care setting cannot be described through a single, time-bound comment. The constant changes in those relationships necessitate adapting from time to time.

What should the Domain Focus On

Focusing on belonging, relationships and acceptance can help care providers to attend to specific needs of the children and/or youths under their care. According to Drolet and Arcand (2013), lack of acceptance and failure to feel that sense of belonging creates adaptation challenges for youths. Belonging is classified under Maslow’s needs, yet it is quite easy to forget about it. In most cases, it is difficult to identify when a child/youth in care is craving for a sense of belonging or acceptance. Without identifying this need for belonging and care, meeting it can be a challenge resulting in profound psychological effects on the children and/or youths involved. At-risk children, who mostly are under care, may find it difficult to communicate this need hence the importance of having the need for belonging and acceptance met as part of the conventional day to day practices in care. Having the domain focus on belongingness thus creates a reminder of the specific indicators that the care givers should be looking out for and ensuring that the children are satisfied.

The implications of missing out on belonging and a sense of acceptance are clearly explained by Beck and Malley (2003), who take the context of a school environment as a strategy for pushing for the belonging perspective to care. According to Beck and Malley, children and youths who lack the sense of belonging and acceptance in the classroom and in the school community are most likely to be affected psychologically through increased stress, reduced concentration and increased probability of depression. They may even end up failing in their academics as a result of the psychological torture caused by the feeling of not belonging. Similarly, a study by Hedin (2014) confirmed the role of acceptance in children under foster care, and concluded that it is up to the caregivers to establish strategies for demonstrating to the children and youths that they are accepted. Therefore, by presenting the theme of acceptance, the domain can help push for actual results in the segment.

Ensuring Compliance with the Domain

The key indicators associated with the specific items in the domain are provided by the blueprint. These indicators can be used by service providers in out of home care systems to determine whether they are providing the children and youths with their needs with respect to this particular domain. As such, the service providers can use the guidelines to independently follow up on their performance and even use the indicators in the form of a checklist to examine their progress towards providing all the needs of the children under them. Additionally, they could use the same guidelines as informal interviews to determine whether those in their care had certain feelings that they were hiding from the authorities. Such a system helps to create a form of internal control system, which can be instrumental towards adhering to federal rules and regulations.

Besides the internal controls that the service providers can use, legal authorities, such as the ministry of children and youth services, can take up the indicators listed under the domain and develop them into a checklist that can be used as a form for compliance assessment. During routine assessments, such a form can be used as a guideline for questioning children and youths under care regarding how satisfied they are with the care provider. Additionally, the ministry could question the care providers to establish their commitment to the provision of the required level of care under this domain. In this way, a comparison of data collected from the children and youths with that gathered from the care providers can help to identify gaps that need to be closed.

Implications of the Domain on Practice

As a social worker, this domain is likely to influence my decision making with regards to how I follow up on the affairs of children and youths at risk. For instance, I am more aware of the needs of these children, particularly in terms of the desire to belong, be accepted, and be in close tied relationships. As such, I will be likely to make decisions that promote belongingness not only within care contexts but also among youths in social environments. One of such practices that can promote belongingness would be to use small groups to educate the children and youths on social competence. According to Lang (2010), one of the reasons youths feel misaligned to group objectives is the lack of social competence among them. Youths have particularly been described as capable of destroying their social relationships by virtue of their behaviors (King & Boyd, 2016), and I would want them to understand how their behaviors affect other peoples’ perceptions about them. In so doing, they would behave in ways that foster acceptance and recognition even in the out-of-home care systems. Additionally, I would want to engage with the care givers through enlightening them on the need for showing an attitude of acceptance to the children and youths under them.

Impacts of the Domain on Practice with Youths

The domain calls for a deeper understanding of the concepts of social and cultural competence, which affect the performance of care givers and social workers in caring for young people. The basis of this understanding is based on the argument that most of the young people who feel that they do not belong to a certain social environment develop those feelings based on their observation of how they are socially and culturally treated (Maatta, 2018). A feeling of being understood, cared for, and accepted in spite of the challenges one has faced needs to be developed in practice to ensure that delivery is effective. Accordingly, using the guidelines provided by the blueprint can help care givers and social workers attached to particular cases in monitoring their individual gaps in providing the level of belonging and acceptance that the children need.

The domain can help address the institutional factors that affect children’s perceptions about their belonging. In most cases, children and youths in out-of-home care facilities are at risk individuals, who have previously been exposed to abuse, neglect and other forms of rejection. Therefore, they are extra-sensitive to changes in the environment that seem to endanger their well-being. Nevertheless, with the belonging domain, these children can be subjected to meaningful human relationships that tend to foster a sense of belonging among them (Lang, 2010). Houston (2015) recommends aligning social work practice and supervision decisions with the characteristics of the target population, and the domain promises to change practice by instilling competencies that are effective towards developing a sense of efficacy and social responsibility, both of which motivate an understanding of one’s motivation for a connected community. In this way, care givers promote the pedagogy of belonging, which emphasizes the importance of interpersonal relationships in child/youth care contexts.



Beck, M., & Malley, J. (2003). In the classroom: A pedagogy of belonging. CYC-Online, 50. Retrieved from

Drolet, M., & Arcand, I. (2013). Positive development, sense of belonging, and support of peers among early adolescents: Perspectives of different actors. International Educational Studies, 6(4), 29-38. Retrieved from

Hedin, L. (2014). A sense of belonging in a changeable everyday life- A follow-up study of young people in kinship, network, and traditional foster families. Child & Family Social Work, 19(2), 165-173. Retrieved from

Houston, S. (2015). Reflective practice: A model for supervision and practice in social work. Northern Ireland Social Care Council. Retrieved from

King, V., & Boyd, L.M. (2016). Factors associated with perceptions of family belonging among adolescents. Journal of Marriage and Family, 78(4), 1114-1130. Retrieved from

Lang, N.C. (2010). Group work practice to advance social competence: A specialized methodology for social work. Columbia University Press. Retrieved from

Maatta, T. (2018). Broadening social work’s framework on place and belonging: An investigation into identity processes intersected by experiences of migration. The British Journal of Social Work, 48(6), 1594-1610. Retrieved from

Ministry of Children and Youth Affairs (2016). Because young people matter: Report of the residential services review panel. Ministry of Children and Youth Affairs. Retrieved from

Ministry of Children and Youth Affairs (2017). Safe and caring places for children and youth: Ontario’s blueprint for building a new system of licensed residential services. Ministry of Children and Youth Affairs. Retrieved from

Over, H. (2016). The origins of belonging: Social motivation in infants and young children. Philosophical Transactions B, 371(1686). Retrieved from

The Student Commission (2017). Envisioning better care for youth: Our input into the blueprint. The Student Commission.