A Critical Overview of the Significance of Power and Power Relations in the Lives of Children in Care: Evidence from an Irish Study.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Caroline MCGREGOR, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland
Lisa MORAN, Edge Hill University, United Kingdom
Carmel DEVANEY, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland
This paper draws upon findings from an Irish study of permanence and stability outcomes for children in long-term care, completed by the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre NUI Galway, on behalf of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency from 2014 to 2017. The research is based on qualitative materials from 27 biographical narrative interpretive method (BNIM) interviews with children, young people, parents and foster carers. The research found that three factors markedly affect permanence and stability for children and youth in care in this context. These are communication, relationships, and services supports. Through a narrative methodology, different forms of power relations across these three domains became very evident. Using a Foucault-informed theorisation of power, the paper uses illustrative quotes from children and young people to demonstrate how power and power relations markedly affected how they conceptualise permanence and stability, their relationships with social workers, and how they interpreted the societal functions of child welfare systems. Some commentaries from parents and foster parents will illuminate the importance of greater attention to attending to children’s views and experiences in care specifically through a power and power relations lens. In the discussion, practice guidance developed from the study is outlined and considered. The need for more explicit studies of power and power relations in relation to children and families involved with child welfare systems is argued for in order to bring about an increased voice for children and young people in the development and improvement of public child welfare services.