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Conditioned agency? The role of children in the audit of Swedish residential care
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
2017 (English)In: Child & Family Social Work, ISSN 1356-7500, E-ISSN 1365-2206, Vol. 22, no S2, p. 33-42Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

At a policy level, governments increasingly stress the importance of children's rights and their ability to participate in decision-making in child welfare services. An example of this is that the Swedish inspectorate targeting children in residential care is required to consult children and to take account of their opinions. This paper details a study exploring the influence that the inspectorate grants children and particularly how children's views influence the inspection process. The study draws on interviews and observations of inspectors as well as an analysis of a representative sample (n = 147) of documentation from inspections performed during 2012. The result indicates different inspectorial rationales, which in turn influence the importance children's opinions are assigned in the inspection process. Moreover, the findings demonstrate difficulties in giving children's views substantial impact on the inspection process. This can be attributed to the fact that most of the regulatory quality criteria used by the authority diverge from the aspects of care that children attach most importance to. The study adds empirical findings to how the participation of children is realized during inspection.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 22, no S2, p. 33-42
Keyword [en]
audit society, children’s participation, inspection, residential care, sociology of childhood
National Category
Social Work
Research subject
Social Work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-124389DOI: 10.1111/cfs.12234ISI: 000394907100004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-124389DiVA: diva2:885788
Funder
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2015-12-21 Created: 2015-12-21 Last updated: 2018-01-29Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The Prerequisites and Practices of Auditing Residential Care: On the Licensing and Inspection of Residential Homes for Children in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Prerequisites and Practices of Auditing Residential Care: On the Licensing and Inspection of Residential Homes for Children in Sweden
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this dissertation is to describe and analyse the prerequisites and practices of auditing Swedish residential care for children. Residential care is a complex intervention provided to children in vulnerable life situations. The care is extensively delivered by private providers and shows difficulties in demonstrating clearly positive treatment effects. Licensing and inspections are policy instruments to address alleged quality problems in decentralised and marketised welfare services. However, in research there are mixed opinions on the ability of audits to generate improved service quality.

The dissertation consists of four papers exploring central facets of the audit system. The empirical material is based on interviews (n=50) with inspectors and residential staff, documentation (n=286) in terms of guidelines and license/inspection decisions and observations (n=12) at inspection-related events. Each paper includes a unique set of data.

Paper I analyses the controls that private residential homes undergo prior to their entry into the market. The results show that a majority of applicants are granted a license and that the controls do not reduce the need for ex post control. There is limited guidance on care content and research evidence is weakly incorporated in the controls. Overall, the state exerts limited influence over the composition and professional development of the care market.

Paper II explores the operationalisation process of care quality in inspections. The results show that the standards display a marked variation and there is no differentiation between different residential homes. In general, the standards focus on reducing malpractice and not maximising care quality. In practice, the inspections are often discussion-based and standards relating to work with children are often indistinct.

Paper III analyses how inspections are perceived by representatives from residential homes. The results show that inspections induce reflection and to some extent shape the administrative parts of care, but also that it is difficult to discern the actual impact of the inspections on the work. The inspections appear to bring a degree of stability and legitimacy to the work, but there are sometimes tensions between standards and professional judgment.

Paper IV studies the influence the inspection process grants children in care. The results suggest that different inspectorial rationales (regulative, supportive and protective) may influence the agency children exert and that it is difficult to allow children’s views to have a substantial impact on the process. Overall, there tends to be a gap between what the children find important and what the audits can address in concrete terms.

The theoretical ideas used to analyse the results are derived from institutional organisational theory and the thesis on the audit society. The overall analysis shows that 1) making certain core care aspects auditable and ensuring their impact is difficult (e.g., children-staff relationships, children’s views and use of research knowledge), 2) the system has a restrained character and is in many senses associated with inconclusive formative effects, 3) the use of uniform goals does not necessarily equal a more suitable care provision and 4) the audits signify strong symbolic values. Despite the limitations, the audits may help to discipline care providers, secure a minimum level relative to the audited care aspects and induce reflection among auditees.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Social Work, Stockholm University, 2018. p. 90
Series
Stockholm studies in social work, ISSN 0281-2851 ; 38
Keyword
Child welfare, Out-of-home care, Residential care for children and adolescents, Audit, Licensing, Inspection, Quality Indicators
National Category
Social Work
Research subject
Social Work
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-151624 (URN)978-91-7797-135-1 (ISBN)978-91-7797-136-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-03-09, Aula Svea, Socialhögskolan, Sveavägen 160, Stockholm, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Manuscript.

Available from: 2018-02-14 Created: 2018-01-25 Last updated: 2018-02-22Bibliographically approved

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