154.1 Interventions 'in the best interest of the child'? Professions and their orientations towards the child in youth welfare

Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Steffen EISENTRAUT , Sociology, Bergische Universitšt Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany
Lars ALBERTH , Sociology, University of Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany
Recently several fatal cases of child maltreatment or neglect have been discussed in German media and politics. The public debate on options and limitations of state interventions reinforced scientific interest in processes of child protection.

In a shared project of the German universities of Wuppertal and Kassel, named „Social System, Child Maltreatment and Processes of Professional Intervention“[1] we take a look at professional interventions with two different theoretical approaches: While our colleagues in Kassel are engaged with structural conditions of action, e.g. questions on institutional normations, professional-organisational codes and interorganisational interconnections, the team in Wuppertal is interested in logics of action, which means concrete interactions between professionals and families. Looking at processes of triage (i.e. allocating a case to a certain problem category and deciding about measurements) we interrogate how professional orientations towards the child shape the trajectory of an intervention. The different orientations of involved professionals towards the child and different forms of triage with respect to 'the best interest of the child' are at the same time the main topics of our poster, which will present preliminary results of data interpretation of the Wuppertal research group.

To get information on triage processes, interviews in 5 local settings (cities or rural districts) are conducted with actors in the field of child protection who take part in professional interventions, including youth welfare officers, social workers, midwives, pediatrists or (child) psychologists. A second strategy of data collection is participant observation in case conferences in youth welfare offices or in independent organisations of youth welfare. Both the interviews and the observations facilitate case reconstructions in order to get insight in professional logics of action, typical modes of triage, and typical problems and paradoxes of the intervention.

[1]    The project is funded by the German Research Foundation from 2010-2013.