Can leadership make the difference? A scoping review of leadership and its effects in child and youth care

Janet Ressang-Wildschut*, Lieke Oldenhof*, Ian Leistikow*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Child and youth care (CYC) is operating in an unpredictable environment, making leadership in CYC a challenge. Leaders of CYC operate under public and political pressure to reform failed systems, compete for scarce resources, obtain and sustain a highly skilled workforce, and achieve organizational goals and tasks within a complex network. Although many studies underline the importance of leadership in CYC, there is no clear demarcation of the concept of leadership and its associated effects. By conducting a scoping review of the literature, this study aims to improve a conceptual understanding of leadership and provide insight into the influence of leadership on service delivery in CYC. The results show that the majority of the studies within the scope did not use clear definitions of leadership and did not specify the type or level of leadership. Despite this lack of clarity, most studies do discuss the positive effects of leadership behaviors. Leadership behaviors are primarily associated with positive effects on employee commitment and well-being; i.e. creating and communicating a vision, providing trust, safety and respect, inspire, motivate, stimulate and having a cooperative attitude. These leadership behaviors are not exclusively linked to a specific level of leadership and seem effective at all levels. However, the results also show that support from the top of the organization, noticeable in behavior, is a prerequisite for the other layers of management in the organization to be effective. The lack of clarity about type or level of leadership to which the conclusions apply, makes it difficult to develop and recommend targeted leadership interventions. Therefore, future studies should provide a clear definition of leadership, including job title, job content and leadership level. Our findings suggest that these leadership behaviors, can help CYC professionals navigate through their unpredictable environment and improve the quality of care.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107017
Number of pages14
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank drs. Linda J. Schoonmade, who is a medical information specialist at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands, for her vital contributions in executing the search strategy.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors


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