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In and out of care: a profile and analysis of children in the out-of-home care system in Sweden
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
Kommunförbundet Västernorrland, Sweden.
2012 (English)In: Children and youth services review, ISSN 0190-7409, E-ISSN 1873-7765, Vol. 34, no 5, 900-907 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this paper we present a profile and analysis of children in the out-of-home care system in Sweden. We describe the conditions of three age groups of children and young people prior to their entry into care, the reasons for placement as given by social workers and documented in the children's case files, and analyze their movements in and out of care drawing attention to the issues of placement instability and breakdown. Our analyses reveal that there are important differences between age groups in rationales for placement, that a significant majority of children who returned home from care did so before social workers considered care no longer necessary, and that significant numbers of placements are notable in their instability. This study points to the need to develop participatory frameworks for practice beyond the rhetoric of solidarity and democracy that underlies Sweden's Social Services Act. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2012. Vol. 34, no 5, 900-907 p.
Keyword [en]
Children in care, Sweden, Placement instability, Breakdown
National Category
Social Work
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-55300DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.01.019ISI: 000302971700005OAI: diva2:527320
Available from: 2012-05-19 Created: 2012-05-14 Last updated: 2013-05-03Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Barn som flyttas i offentlig regi: En studie av förekomst och upplevelser av instabil samhällsvård för barn
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Barn som flyttas i offentlig regi: En studie av förekomst och upplevelser av instabil samhällsvård för barn
2013 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[en]
Moved around by social services : A study of the incidence and experience of instability for children in out-of-home care
Abstract [en]

The aim of this dissertation is to investigate the incidence of instability in out-of-home care for children and how children experience this instability. The dissertation consists of two studies. The quantitative study is based on an examination of social work case files of 213 children who began 317 placements in 2005 and 2006. Every placement was followed for a maximum of two years. The qualitative study used interpretive phenomenology as method and is based on interviews with 12 purposively selected children who had experienced placement breakdown at some point during 2011 or 2012.  

The quantitative study shows that the majority of children had experienced problems in their home environments prior to placement. Most commonly reported was parents’ substance abuse or mental health problems. Preschool and schoolchildren were more often placed in care due to neglect whereas adolescents were placed because of their own behavior problems or relational problems. Children in the qualitative study described that the problems they experienced prior to coming into care continued to influence them during their time in care.

The quantitative study indicates that different types of instability are associated with children’s ages. That is, breakdown was most common for adolescents whereas preschool children more often experienced planned placements changes. Children in the qualitative study gave similar descriptions of planned placement changes and placement breakdown. The difficulty with which these children experienced the move from a foster family or group home depended on their relationship to caregivers. Therefore, planned placement changes from foster homes or institutional settings in which children reported being happy were described as more difficult than breakdown in placements from which children wanted to move. In children’s views, breakdown was caused by mismatches between them and caregivers, mistreatment in care settings, and their own behavior problems. However, children explained that when social workers did not listen to them, behavior problems in the form of running away, self-harming or behaving badly, were the only way of ending placements in which they were miserable.

All children in the qualitative study described a wish for close relationships with consistent adults and an opportunity to feel that they belong somewhere. These fundamental needs were difficult for them to have satisfied due to their parents’ problematic life histories, instability in care which repeatedly placed children in new care situations, and a lack of continuity of social workers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2013. 69 p.
Studier i socialt arbete vid Umeå universitet : avhandlings- och skriftserie, ISSN 0283-300X ; 77
Breakdown, children, foster care, instability, institutional care, planned placement changes, youth.
National Category
Social Work
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-68307 (URN)978-91-7459-580-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-06-05, Samhällsvetarhuset, Hörsal s 213 h, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2013-05-15 Created: 2013-04-16 Last updated: 2013-05-03Bibliographically approved

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Khoo, EvelynSkoog, Viktoria
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