Social workers with borders Finnish social workers’ perceptions of transnationalism in the practice with unaccompanied minor migrants

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för socialt arbete

Abstract: The aim of this paper was to study the perceptions which Finnish social workers hold of transnationalism in their practice with unaccompanied minors. Seeing how they perceived it as part of the minor’s lives, how they took into consideration the transnational family ties, and how transnational was their own practice were the questions that this study intended to answer. The data in this qualitative research was collected through seven semi structured interviews with professional social workers. The approach of the research was interpretivist-constructionist, and the data was analysed with thematic analysis. Transnationalism was the leading theory of the study, which navigated between inductive and deductive approaches.The findings indicate that social workers recognize transnationalism as part of unaccompanied minors’ realities to varying degrees. The recognition is tied to aspects of silence, perceptions of agency, and the constructions of the minors as either same or other, both by social workers and the wider structures where their care is organized. The social workers consideration of the transnational family ties is fairly good, but the inclusion of the family is voluntary, weak, and inconsistent, and depends on the different constructions of the family. The transnational activities the social workers undertake shift between moderate and intermediate, varying between different respondents and focusing on individual situations. The overall practice is thus still weakly transnational and the transnationalism is weakly institutional, which may be influenced by the perception of social work practice limited within Finnish borders. The initial awareness of transnationalism and its impact is however a step towards the right direction. In addition to the results related to transnationalism the findings revealed the unobtainability of family reunification and the structural othering of the minors. Increasingly transnational and rights-based social work practice is thus needed, along with changes in policies regarding family reunification and the othering of the unaccompanied minors.

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