Where Is The Child In Child Protection? Professional Proceedings Beyond Victims

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: Booth 64
Oral Presentation
Doris BUEHLER-NIEDERBERGER , Department of Education and Social Science, University of Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany
Steffen EISENTRAUT , Sociology, Bergische Universitšt Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany
Lars ALBERTH , Sociology, University of Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany
The paper is based on the results of a project on professional interventions in cases of child maltreatment. More than hundred interviews with professionals (social workers, physicians, midwives) were carried out in five communities in Germany. In this way a data set consisting of 93 cases of suspected child maltreatment was collected.

Our results show that children are generally excluded from child protection proceedings and their voices are ignored. Therefore the rules and ways of this exclusion are analysed:

1. The exclusion of the child works via two main principles: (a) Child protection law addresses the restitution of parental competences and the conservation of the family. (b) The different professional programmes involved in child protection all eliminate children’s point of view while focussing other perspectives. Social work is concerned with the relationship between professionals and parents. Physicians and midwives do only partially include the child, as they either take notice of the child’s body as a ‘corpus delicti’ (as a bearer of traces for the physician’s gaze) or as an object of parental care.

2. Against such background, traces of the children can only occasionally be found, as some social workers show empathy for the child’s position. Institutions like kindergarten or day care serve as amplifiers of the child’s need.

3. The information disclosed by children shows that they have a sense for the harm and disrespect as a person they are exposed to. All in all, the children articulate claims for a personal self being respected by others.

4. Furthermore, specific cases show how those occasional appearances of the child’s agency are silenced by the professionals in the further proceedings. Children’s agency was only not repressible in cases, when they were able to raise their voice at places / institutions outside their homes or when their behaviour continuously disturbed.