Abstract

In this article we describe a peer‐research project, in which nineteen homeless youngsters interviewed 190 of their ‘colleagues’ about the quality of professional care and the improvements that, according to them, should be made. The interviews were followed by discussion meetings with social workers and policy makers. The youngsters report mixed feelings about the professional care system. On the one hand they think they should do more themselves, there should not be too much professional interference and certainly not a patronizing attitude. On the other hand, they want better advice and assistance which is rather based on a joint effort. The essence of professional care is, according to both the young and the professional participants, to find a balance between independence and assistance. From an educational point of view, social workers and adolescents operate at daggers drawn. Conflict and opposing views are often an inherent part of the road to gaining autonomy. This process, which is often painful, can only be successfully completed in an atmosphere of sincerity, mutual trust and consultation. Dialogue at all levels is believed to be a sine qua non in the improvement of professional care for homeless youth.

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