Australian residential care programs are being increasingly challenged to respond to the therapeutic needs of the young people they service. Staff-client relationships have been identified as an important factor mediating program outcomes. Owing to the paucity of guiding literature, this study sought to understand young men's perceptions of the nature, role and qualities of their relationships with youth workers. In-depth interviews were conducted with 9 young men, who averaged 15 years 9 months of age, residing in the South Australian residential care system. The collation and analysis of data was guided by grounded theory. The young men constructed their relationships with youth workers in globally positive descriptors, although the global properties of this theme are qualified on a number of levels. Distinct staff and client roles, respectively corresponding to ‘provider’ and ‘consumer’, were identified. A number of qualities associated with positive staff-client relationships were identified, with attachment theory guiding the interpretation of themes. Program, policy and research implications of the research are discussed.