“…It’s not only about giving children a voice”- social workers accounts of child participation in social investigations

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Tema Barn

Abstract: There is a consensus in Sweden that children are right-bearers and shall participate in matters that affect them among legislators, the government’s instructions by Barns Behov I Centrum (BBIC) (Child’s needs in focus) and among social workers. Despite this, previous research shows that children’s participation in social investigations is limited. The aim of this study is to analyse and interpret how social worker’s describe and understand children’s participation in their daily work at a social welfare unit. It is their perception of child participation that is studied. The data consists of interviews with nine social workers investigating children of 0-12 years of age at three social welfare units in municipalities’ in the outskirts of Stockholm. The theoretical perspective of this study is childhood sociology. The social workers in this study regard children as competent enough to receive information as well as capable contributors to the investigations. Participation was viewed as a cornerstone in their work with children. Children were described as capable of communicating information and their perspective on their situation through speech, behaviour or play indicating that all children can contribute despite age. But oral communication dominates and has a higher value, showing that age and maturity has an impact on children’s participation. Restrictions by guardians, time-restraint and heavy workloads also limited children’s participation during the investigation. 

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