The project investigates how professionals in a residential home and
across professional contexts cooperate in defining problems and organizing care
in everyday life of children in care. The central point is how these
professionals located in different institutions cooperate with each other and
with children and their parents and how these different kinds of cooperation
creates contexts for children’s development of participation. The project
follows nine children’s stay in one specific residential home.
project is analyzing the professional praxis in a residential home related to
professional’s cooperation with parents and children and with other
professionals across contexts of arrangements of children’s care. Focus is on
how these contexts of care are objectifying children and parents as objects for
professional treatment and/or as subjects with resources to participate and
abilities to contribute to individual or collective possibilities of life.
Related to this the project raise the question of which problems are connected
to professional understandings and actions, which try to facilitate children’s
development of social participation in a societal mediated and
inter-institutional connected residential care?
The project follows three perspectives. Taking care of children in
residential homes (RH) is a historical developed professional praxis. The ways
professionals organize praxis is connected to certain theories of children’s
needs (Woodhead 1997), which in themselves are part of cultural constructions of
childhood (James, Allison &, Alan Prout 1997).
These professional understandings and practical actions constitute conditions to
which children in care respond and relate in their developing of subjectivity.
Professionals across “childhood units” (school, daycares, social workers,
care-takers in RH) contribute in cooperation with parents to build a
developmental context for children in RH. The ways professionals and parents
cooperate and handle conflicts across contexts construct life circumstances for
children (Højholt 2001), and the first perspective in the project is how
this cooperation - which in it selves is mediated - across contexts contributes
to the construction of certain understandings of children and professional
arrangements of care.
I am searching for children’s and parent’s perspectives on the care the
children receive. I follow the children in their everyday life in the RH and in
other contexts of development. I am looking for how they respond to professional
arrangements, how they build communities together with other children and
professionals, and how certain conditions make up differentiated possibilities
of children’s action. What are the possibilities for self governmental action
in institutional communities and what are the possibilities of influence in
daily life and in their life situation as a whole? The second perspective
is on children’s and parents possibilities of participation in daily life in a
RH and in decisions about the life conditions of the children across contexts.
parents and children cooperate in creating a cultural environment in the
institution (connected to and mediated by other societal contexts), which in
different ways is objectifying both children and professionals as subjects. The
third perspective in the project is how this objectified subjectivity
emerges in different ways, and how both professionals, parents and children,
produce meaning and possibilities of action in the children’s complicated and
Participation is a central concept in this project and it is argued that
subjects learn and develop subjectivity as a functional respond to certain
conditions across contexts of life (Dreier 1999, Lave 1991). In Critical
Psychology (fx Nissen 1998 & 2001; Højholt 1993 & 1996; Dreier 1993)
subjects are supposed to develop individual possibilities by taking part in
different kinds of communities and contribute at the same time to the
development of these collective conditions. Participation takes place from
certain located positions, where subjects are positioned and also positioning
themselves, contexts which themselves are parts of broader societal contexts
(Dreier 1993). From these locations subjects are developing different personal
standpoints and perspectives in lives. Participation in relation to certain
conditions contributes to or restricts personal development and in the same time
(as a possibility) gives access to common resources in society.
Children in RH are positioned as “others” in several ways. First they
are cultural defined as different from adult, and as not yet developed human
beings who are vulnerable (Christensen & James 2000). Children in RH are
further more categorized in many different ways, separated in special social
arrangements and positioned as clients, who are thought of as being in need for
treatment (Järvinen & Mik-Meyer 2003).
These children have in different ways experienced to be separated from or
marginalized in societal contexts in their childhood, and have at the same time
lost access to certain contexts and the possibilities to develop certain
culturally defined competences (Højholt 1993, 2003; Schwartz 2001). Their
possibilities have often been reduced by peripheral or excluded positions.
the same time the Danish legislation and The Convention of Children’s Rights
emphasize that any child should be given a place in community from which it can
participate and be heard in its own right. The project addresses these contra
dictionary discourses and praxis´ of arranging childhood in and around RH.
Context of action or the environmental conditions for children’s
participation is a central focus. Conditions both make up certain constraints
and enable action. Cooperative practise is developing contexts of action which
children respond to and relate their possibilities to. The project tries to
catch this simultaneously differentiated construction of subjects and
environment (Cole 2003).
My project is based on a professional praxis in a certain RH and I follow
the stay of nine children here and in related institutions of their daily life.
This particular RH is chosen because of its proclaimed principles of cooperation
with parents and children (se Schwartz & Madsen 2003). In this RH both
parent’s and children’s perspectives on the professional support they
receive are given strongly weight. In a kind of a joint venture I cooperate with
the professionals in order to investigate the knowledge they have gained through
their work over more than a decade. The project seeks to develop methods to
develop knowledge together with professionals, parents and children and from the
standpoint of praxis (Højholt 1993; Nissen 1998, 2001; Mørck 1995, 2003).
my project as a whole the methods of investigation are created in close
connection to the three perspectives in the project mentioned earlier. According
to the first perspective I follow the work of the professionals across
institutional context (day-care, school, children’s home, social work etc.)
especially in interdisciplinary conferences. Through one year I observe
the professional handling of the children as “cases”. I analyze
journals intern and across institutions, dairy notes in the RH, reports from
conferences and I am specially looking for professional constructions of “the
child as a client”. I interview
key-persons about their considerations about care.
According to the second perspective I focus on children and parents. I interview parents one time in the beginning of the stay and second
time a year after. I interview the children twice, the first time about their
daily life across contexts (interest, engagements, network, values, and opinions
about daily life) and the second time about the background of the stay in the
institution, experience about being listened to, being engaged in
decision-making, opinion about the care they are receiving and their
perspectives on the future. I follow each child one whole day in different
contexts. In this perspective I investigate and recognize children’s and
parent’s personal perspectives on their daily life dependent on professional
support in order to analyze how they develop meaning and create
life-possibilities embedded in professional arrangements (Gulløv 1999).
In the third perspective I follow the daily life in RH by participatory
observation (Gulløv & Højlund
2003). I stay once a week over a year in afternoon and evening and observe the
professional’s cooperation, how children are creating child communities and
how children and professionals are organizing a daily life together. After the
first year I follow the children over another year at more rare intervals.
Collecting data in these multiple perspectives give some possibilities (I
hope) to analyze the complexity of the objectifying context(s) and their
contributions to the development of children’s subjectivity in a RH.
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