Title page for ETD etd-03102010-105351

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Magro, Martha Elizabeth
Email marlize.magro@gmail.com
URN etd-03102010-105351
Document Title The experience of the adolescent in a place of safety
Degree MSW
Department Social Work and Criminology
Advisor Name Title
Prof G M Spies Supervisor
  • place of safety
  • experience
  • adolescents
  • developmental tasks
  • Gestalt
Date 2009-04-15
Availability unrestricted

Statutory involvement with adolescents is based on the assumption that it is a means of serving the adolescentís best interests. In South African society, the adolescent is placed in a place of safety as an interim measure, until the childrenís court investigation is finalized. When the childrenís court investigation has been finalized, the adolescent will be placed in a long-term placement for two years at a time.

The ideal length of a childrenís court investigation is six months. However, the reality is that adolescents remain in places of safety for periods far exceeding the legal and departmental guidelines.

The adolescent developmental phase presents unique and varied developmental challenges. Adolescents develop a self-image, self-knowledge and knowledge of how and where they fit into society. The question arises whether placement in a place of safety serves the adolescentsí best interests, or whether it adds to the trauma that the adolescent experiences. The best interests of adolescents can only be served if their experiences within the place of safety placement are the central motivation for care in the place of safety.

In order to develop insight into the experience of the adolescent in a place of safety, the researcher conducted a phenomenological study, based on the qualitative research design. The researcher conducted a literature study, which forms the knowledge base for this study. The literature study focuses on adolescentsí developmental tasks and adolescence as seen from a gestalt perspective. When an adolescent is not able to reach the important developmental milestones, this might impact negatively on the adolescentís adult life. From a gestalt approach, the integrated functioning of the adolescent should form the basis of all care provision. The adolescent can only take control of his or her life if a state of homeostasis or organismic self-regulation has been achieved, by the creation of a full awareness of the self and of the surroundings.

The study included in-depth interviews with eight (8) adolescents in places of safety. The in-depth interviews provided the researcher with the opportunity to explore, together with the adolescents, the experiences which they felt were important. By doing so, the researcher could gather data about the adolescentsí experiences from the adolescentsí perspectives. The empirical study, contributed to the knowledge base by providing evidence that the adolescents in a place of safety experience secondary trauma, based on their being ill-informed of the statutory process. Empirical evidence further showed that adolescents experience uncertainty, feelings of depression, isolation, and anxiety in places of safety. Because of the isolation they experience in a place of safety, they are denied the opportunity to feel part of the society, and also to develop a self-image and self-knowledge.

Social workers and places of safety need to take responsibility to support adolescents in continuing with their development process in a healthy manner. If the adolescent is not supported in this way, he or she experiences feelings of anger and depression, as well as developmental difficulties, within an environment in which it is difficult to develop optimally.

Copyright © 2008, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Magro, ME 2008, The experience of the adolescent in a place of safety, MSW dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-03102010-105351/ >

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