NORFACE WSF Thematic Workshop – The Future of Child and Family Welfare Policy, 21 – 25 August 2017, University of Groningen
Report by Mónica López López (HESTIA)
The Welfare State Futures projects HESTIA and FACSK organised a thematic workshop and a summer school titled “The Future of Child and Family Welfare Policy: Looking Through Different Lenses” from 21 to 25 August 2017. The main focus of this school was the comparative analysis of child and family welfare regimes in Europe. Besides the inspiring and interesting lectures, this summer school provided the enriching opportunity for the HESTIA and FACSK researchers to meet, share the results of their respective projects, and exchange ideas for future research.
Themes reviewed during the summer school
During each day of the summer school we reviewed a specific topic of child and family welfare research. During the first day of the summer school, we had several presentations about child and family welfare of various countries to introduce the child welfare regimes that are captured in the HESTIA and FACSK research projects (the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Germany, and England). Later that day, PhD students presented their work during 3 parallel sessions. On Tuesday, we discussed the strengths, possibilities and challenges of conducting international comparative research in the field child and family welfare and some of the initial research findings of the HESTIA and FACSK research project were shared. Moreover, school participants for Ghana, Georgia, and Poland gave presentations about child and family welfare in their countries. The main theme of Wednesday was the voice of families – parents and children – in research. During a workshop delivered by young people of the Youth Taskforce, the participants and speakers of the school targeted challenges in conducting research in collaboration with children. On Thursday, we reviewed child and family welfare from social workers’ perspective. On the last day, decision-making in child and family welfare was the main focus of the presentations, with the presence of Margrite Kalverboer, the Ombudsperson for Children in the Netherlands.
The Summer School was visited by a number of 78 participants (including 20 speakers) who covered 22 different nationalities (the Netherlands, Sweden, Zimbabwe, Russia, Germany, Ghana, Turkey, Portugal, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Iran, Norway, Jamaica, Poland, Chile, Armenia, United Stated of America, China, United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, and Georgia). Our participants had different backgrounds in the field of child and family welfare: Bachelor or master students (n = 10), PhD students (n = 21), postdoctoral researchers/professors (n = 22), and practitioners/policymakers (n = 25). Most speakers were researchers from the HESTIA or FACSK research teams and some presentations were delivered by children’s organizations. Young people from the Dutch Youth Taskforce reflected on the importance children’s participation in research and child protection investigations. Subsequently, the Ombudsperson for Children in the Netherlands, Prof. Margrite Kalverboer, emphasized the importance of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child during and handling in the best interest of the child during the closing lecture of the Summer school.
The participants of the summer school were overall very satisfied with the content of the summer school. They highly valued the international diversity in the school, which enabled them to learn from different cultures. They mentioned that the summer school made them aware of the possibilities and challenges of international comparative research: “Similar concept might have a different meaning in different countries. You should be aware of this when being involved in an international comparative project. Be cautious about this cultural differences”. Another often-mentioned topic was the importance of children’s participation in research: “We should be doing research with children instead of doing research about children!”. Moreover, school participants mentioned that team members of the HESTIA and FACSK research teams should be creative in disseminating the results of their studies. Next to publications in academic journals, they should think about ways to inform and reach practitioners, policymakers, caregivers, and children who are involved in child and family welfare services.
We would like to thank all our speakers for their great and inspiring presentations during the summer school. We thank our participants for their input in the rich debates we had during the summer school. We appreciate the effort of the ones who came from far away from Groningen. Moreover, we would like to thank the EUSARF Academy, an international network of PhD students, for their help in organizing the summer school. Last but not least, we are very grateful to our sponsors, who made the event possible:
- NORFACE Welfare State Futures
- Summer & Winter Schools – University of Groningen
- The Institute for the Study Of Education and Human Development (ISED)
- Sustainable Society – University of Groningen
- Mastertrack Youth 0-21, Society, and Policy – University of Groningen
- Department of Pedagogical and Educational Sciences – University of Groningen
- Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences – University of Groningen
Selection of Presented Papers
Erik J. Knorth, HESTIA | University of Groningen | e.j.knorth (at) rug.nl
The Dutch Decentralisation Policy: Risks for Child Protection and Child Welfare?
Main theme is the new Dutch policy on child and family welfare, especially the decentralisation of the power of control on youth care to the municipalities (Youth Act, 2015). The policy was initiated to tackle a number of enduring problems like too much focus in policy on ‘youth with problems’, partitioning of the field in separate sectors, dependency of clients (‘consumers’) on what care providers offer, an ongoing tendency to ‘passing on’ children and young people, a growing ‘consumption’ of specialised youth care, and limited evidence on the effectiveness of (parts of) the system. Principles of the new policy regard, for instance, the (geographically) nearness of child and family support, the needs of the client as guiding principle, the children’s safety as paramount, the ‘normalisation’ of children’s life as much as possible, the empowerment of family members, and the engagement of the social network in child and family support. The transition of responsibilities to the municipalities and transformation of the youth care system was accompanied with two directives: savings up to 15% and reduction of specialized services up to 30%. Two and a half year after implementation of the new policy the conclusion is that there are still risks for vulnerable children and families like too late referrals to specialised services, less availability of specialist treatment, too long waiting time to start interventions, continuing passing-on of children from service to service, the persistence of unsafe child-rearing situations, and the only very laboriously coming into being of integrated support services. Message: Implementation of new policy takes a long time and asks for extra investments instead of savings.
Ahmet Gümüscü, FACSK | Umeå University | ahmet.gumuscu (at) umu.se
Co-authors: Lennart Nygren and Evelyn Khoo
Social Work with Families with Complex Needs. On Family Orientation in Swedish Social Services
Within the past decades has the concept of family been changing continuously, both structural and contextual, due to changes in demography, ideology and economic why there is a need for an increased awareness of how social services works with family as the target for their interventions. The overall ambition of our research is to provide knowledge about how different meanings of the concept of the family affects the intervention of social work in Sweden, how those interventions are directed and implemented, and also provide a basis for increased awareness of the standards affecting the design of interventions of social services. In our study, we have focused on social worker’s responses and have interviewed social worker working at official social service units as; 1) child welfare, 2) elderly care, 3) disabilities 4) addiction 5) economical support, in 6 different municipalities. We found that social workers are challenged in their everyday work where they are aware of the many needs in a family but clienthood and the family are interpreted in different ways depending on which sector social workers are working at.
Ida Bruheim Jensen, FACSK | University of Stavanger | ahmida.b.jensen (at) uis.no
Designing a Q Study to Explore how Children and Youth Are Visible to Social Workers in Child Protection Services in Norway and Chile
I explore how children and youth are visible to social workers in child protection services in Norway and Chile based on Q Methodology. The clear benefit of Q Methodology in cross-contextual research is that the basis of the method is to explore and compare differences and similarities in subjective viewpoints. However, there is limited literature on how to design a Q study that can be applied across national contexts with comparative potentials. Norway and Chile reflect differences in language, culture, history, politics and welfare systems. Consequently, a central issue was how to design this Q study to be relevant for social workers in such different national contexts. In this presentation, I will share my design and data collection experiences so far. Furthermore, I wish to address challenges and possible approaches to develop a Q study aiming at comparison and discuss potential gains of such studies.
“The workshop was a good venue to network with PhD fellows having similar research interests and to get feedback on my work. In fact, the workshop resulted in a comparative research collaboration with two other PhD fellows from other parts of Europe!”
Nina Biehal, HESTIA | University of York | nina.biehal (at) york.ac.uk
Co-author: Helen Baldwin, HESTIA
Who Needs Out-of-home Care? Decision-making and Outcomes for Maltreated Children
Nina Biehal and Helen Baldwin delivered a presentation entitled: ‘Who needs out-of-home care? Decision-making and outcomes for maltreated children’. Findings were presented from a study recently undertaken at the University of York, England, which compared outcomes for children in out-of-home care with outcomes for children supported at home on Child Protection Plans. The study collected data on the histories and current development of 390 children who had ever been looked after in out-of-home care due to concerns about maltreatment, or who had been the subject of a Child Protection Plan but never been placed in out-of-home care. The findings on child mental health were presented, which revealed the prevalence of emotional and behavioural difficulties to be higher among children living in care, compared to other maltreated children living at home, and that child mental disorder is multi-factorial; it appears to relate to child illness/disability, parental illness/disability, and the warmth and mental health of current caregivers. This presentation also highlighted the importance of adjusting for the influence of confounding factors when comparing outcomes for children in care to other groups of maltreated children, due to inherent differences between groups.
“The workshop provided a good opportunity to meet other researchers funded by the WSF programme and to learn about their research, and also to share the initial findings from the HESTIA research project with researchers and students from different backgrounds”.
Selection of Project Presentations
Lennart Nygren, FACSK | Umeå University | lennart.nygren (at) umu.se
Child Welfare and Family Policy in Europe
The presentation Child welfare and family policy in Europe consisted of three parts: family policies, child welfare/protection and issues related to comparing different national policies. Family policies are embedded in cultural, political and economic contexts and can be described in term of “regimes”. The use of regimes indicates groupings of countries that share fundamental values, but also that there are differences between groups of countries. Some are more family-oriented (familialized) while others are more individualistic with policies that strive to release the individual from dependency on the family. There are also countries in Eastern Europe that after the collapse of the Soviet Union have moved towards a more family-oriented policy, indicating a re-familialization in their family policies. Child welfare/protection is a specific and mostly highly decentralized part of family policies. There is no linear relationship between a countries general family policy and its often local child welfare/protection services, there are several specific obstacles connected with comparative studies of child welfare/protection. In this presentation the focus is on the difficulties related to language/concepts, different socio-political contexts and large local variations within a country. On the other hand there are also indications of convergence, e.g. the globalization of values and of children’s rights and the strengthening of knowledge base and professional ethos for social workers in this field.
“The workshop was very fruitful both in terms of sharing findings, methodologies and theories and in terms of the mix of people with both students on different levels, scholars and stakeholders. I think many of us created new contacts and got inspiration to create future research collaborations both between FACSK and HESTIA and between partners within FACSK”.
Selection of Workshops
Ingunn T. Ellingsen, FACSK | University of Stavanger | ingunn.studsrod (at) uis.no
Karina Nygren, FACSK | Umeå University | karina.nygren (at) umu.se
Julie Walsh, FACSK | University of Sheffield | j.c.walsh (at) sheffield.ac.uk
Workshop: Voices of Child Welfare Workers in Eight Countries
The workshop aimed to examine the realities of conducting international comparative research in eight different countries, with a specific focus on the strengths and weaknesses of using a case vignette in a focus group setting with social work practitioners. Participants at the summer school were asked to discuss the generic strengths and limitations of the vignette approach in revealing practice ‘voices’ and then shift to focus on the specific vignette used in the FACSK project. By delivering an interactive workshop, participants were able to understand ways in which a case vignette can standardise discussion across different contexts, whilst also recognising the challenges involved in ensuring the vignette is recognisable, and sufficiently ‘everyday’. By concluding with brief examples of data generated, the workshop was also able to show the strengths of the vignette in revealing specific types of practice narrative, for example, ‘in-practice’ and ‘on-practice’ reflections.
“The workshop provided us – the FACSK research team – with a great networking opportunity to meet researchers from other WSF projects, namely HESTIA. The exchange of information was useful for us, as there are many synergies between the research in which we are involved, and much off the HESTIA research data, and data sources, are useful in our work. As such, we were able to discuss these similarities, share challenges and lessons learnt, and reflect on possible future collaborations”.
Hans Grietens, HESTIA | University of Groningen | h.grietens (at ) rug.nl
Helen Baldwin, HESTIA | University of York | helen.baldwin (at) york.ac.uk
Eric van Santen, HESTIA | German Youth Institute | santen (at) dji.de
Laura Miehlbradt, HESTIA | German Youth Institute | miehlbradt (at) dji.de
Workshop: Voices of Families Involved in the Child Protection System in the Netherlands, England and Germany
In this workshop the team presented initial findings from semi-structured qualitative interviews with parents in the three countries, about their experiences of child protection involvement. Several similarities and differences between countries were highlighted. For example, parents in the Netherlands and England felt there had been too many different agencies involved in their case, with a lack of coordination and communication between agencies. Parents in Germany did not highlight this as an issue but complained about the ambiguous role of the child protection agency. Meanwhile, in England and Germany, parents felt the needs of their children had been prioritised over their own needs. In the Netherlands, parents felt the interests of their children should be prioritised but that agencies had failed to protect them. This presentation was followed by an interactive session, in which the audience was asked to form small groups and consider three questions: (i) “How could the findings from these interviews with parents be disseminated and to whom?” (ii) “Which other ways of capturing parents’ voices can you think of?” and (iii) “Which issues need to be considered when conducting international comparative qualitative research?” Members of the audience fed back their ideas during an open discussion and ideas were captured by the team.
Mónica López López, HESTIA | University of Groningen | m.lopez.lopez (at) rug.nl
“The summer school and workshop were a big success. We had around 80 people from 22 countries, very engaged in the debates. We learned a lot from each others projects, and very nice plans have been drafted for future collaborations, starting with the final conference in Florence”.