Residential services across sectors rely substantially on human resources for the purpose of meeting the needs of young people. From a budgetary perspective, human resources account for 80% to 85% of operating expenditures (Gharabaghi, 2009). Evidence with respect to quality of care considerations strongly suggests that relational practices, based on highly skilled human resources, provide for the best and most sustainable outcomes for children and youth living in residential services (Holden, 2009). Over the course of the past ten years, demands for ever more complex evidence-based interventions, inter-disciplinary collaboration and family systems-oriented approaches to being with young people in residential services have accelerated across sectors, and service providers across sectors are working hard to embed such practices and approaches within their programs. This places significant pressure on human resources involved in residential service provision to keep pace with the increasing complexity and demands of the work.

Outside of the directly operated youth justice sector, the lack of standards for hiring qualified staff members in residential care settings has resulted in significant variations in the qualifications, levels of experience, compensation, training, and employment conditions of front line staff across sectors. In many instances, this leads to the recruitment of under-qualified individuals as staff members. This frequently results in poor retention and high turnover rates of those under-qualified individuals, creating further instability for the children and youth in their care. Across all of the sectors of the residential service system, promotional standards are often unclear and supervision, in the context of relational and clinical practice, of staff members is inconsistent and inadequate. In addition, training is often limited to in-house mandatory training related to health and safety, policies and procedures and other themes and issues that are not directly related to the everyday experience of young people in out-of-home care.

The human resources typically associated with residential care services include the following:

Many other kinds of positions play significant roles in residential services, including management staff within the larger agency, owners and operators in the private sector, as well as clinical staff, teaching staff, administrative staff and custodial, maintenance and kitchen staff.