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Social Work History of Child Welfare and Child Protection in Europe
by
Mirja Satka, Caroline Skehill

Introduction

This entry identifies resources on the European history of child welfare and child protection with specific reference to its variety during the past hundred years in various parts of the Continent. It will look at the literature in social work and surrounding themes related to policy, various welfare organizations, and histories of childhood. Many of the crucial ideas in the development of child welfare and protection have traveled from country to country—and also from the United States to Europe. Nevertheless, each region has developed its own applications depending on the local actors, policies, and other conditions. European states have been characterized as having three different ideal types of welfare regime: conservative corporatist, common in the Catholic regions; liberal or neo-liberal, in the Anglo-Saxon nations; and the social democratic or Scandinavian regime. However, the local or national trajectories of the European child welfare and protection do not necessarily follow these patterns; the picture is more varied, especially in eastern Europe, for which currently fewer references in English are available than for western Europe. An effort has been made to include a reasonable representation of the history of child welfare across Europe. However, we must note at the outset that it has not been possible to find specific histories of child welfare for every country that are easily accessible and in English. While some non-English references are provided, these are necessarily illustrative and limited. Also, some countries, most notably Britain, are over-represented, given the extent of scholarship available here.

Introductory Works

Since we currently lack bibliographies and comprehensive introductory presentations of the European history of child welfare, the picture provided is necessarily fragmented. The chosen references are mostly in English, but there are plenty of useful resources in other European languages. In many cases, the original work is able to convey cultural meanings better than its translation, because the proper terms may be lacking, especially in older works written when practices and organization varied more widely. Good references, however, are available that can provide a foundation and examples for innovative historical analyses in one country or for comparative approaches. Lorenz 2006 and Hering and Waaldijk 2006 provide comprehensive background for the development of European social work, social pedagogy, and social interventions, including child welfare. Turmel 2008 and Zeiher 2009 are historical introductions to European thinking and related views of normality in the history of childhood. Hetherington, et al. 1997 and Pringle 1998 are helpful to get an idea of the present variety of child welfare policies and child protection practices in most European nations. They share a comparative approach and involve illustrative case studies. Hetherington, et al. 1997 is based on social workers’ evaluations of the same child protection case in eight different European child protection systems, while Pringle 1998 includes both an introduction to child welfare policies and a case study of child sexual abuse in several European countries. The legislative history of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights 2007 is a useful source for the development of the international legal regulation of child welfare.

  • Hering, Sabine, and Bereteke Waaldijk. 2006. Guardians of the poor— custodians of the public: Welfare history on eastern Europe 19001960. Opladen, Germany: Barbara Budrich.

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    The second chapter (pp. 35–64), by Hering, covers comparative European welfare history: “The influence of culture, denominations and ideologies on welfare history in Eastern Europe: Comparisons and challenges” applies to child welfare, and is a parallel resource with Lorenz 2006, which is more focused on the western European history of social work.

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  • Hetherington, Rachael, Andrew Cooper, Philip Smith, and Gerti Wilford. 1997. Protecting children: Messages from Europe. Lyme Regis, UK: Russel House.

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    This book does not provide a historical dimension as such, but it is a particularly useful example of a comparative multiple case study, and also informative on comparative action research in child welfare/protection. It pays attention to the many meanings of social space in European child protection practices. Appropriate for all levels.

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  • Lorenz, Walter. 2006. Perspectives on European social work: From the birth of the nation state to the impact of globalisation. Leverkusen Opladen, Germany: Barbara Budrich.

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    The first three chapters (pp. 11–2, 21–39, and 41–61) offer general, comparative background for the development of European child welfare. Appropriate for all levels.

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  • Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 2007. Legislative history of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Geneva: United Nations.

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    This volume is a reference resource on the international history of children’s rights.

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  • Pringle, Keith. 1998. Children and social welfare in Europe. Buckinghamshire, UK: Open Univ. Press.

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    This reference does not provide a historical dimension as such but is a rich source on the differences among European child welfare policies in the 1990s. Appropriate for all levels.

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  • Turmel, André. 2008. A historical sociology of childhood: Developmental thinking, categorization and graphic visualization. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511489099Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Uses detailed accounts from Britain, the United States, and France, and is focused on the development of the scientific investigation of children, presenting critical inquiry into developmental thinking on children. Excellent resource for postgraduate study and research.

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  • Zeiher, Helga. 2009. Institutionalization as a secular trend. In The Palgrave handbook of childhood studies. Edited by Jens Qvortrup, William A. Corsaro, and Michael-Sebastian Honig, 127–139. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

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    This is a helpful introduction to place the history of child welfare/protection in the broad context of the evolving institutionalization of childhood.

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Textbooks

Textbooks in various languages are available that can support teaching, learning, and inquiry related to European developments in social work with children and youth (see also Reference Resources). Most of the cited resources describe national histories in the broad context of child welfare, with reference to influences from other regions. As examples of general textbooks in the field of history of child welfare/protection policy and practice, Hendrick 2003 and Cooter 1992 provide overviews of the history of child welfare in relation to of health, social welfare, and social service policy and practice. Parton 1991 presents a critical history of British social work with children, and Davies and Allan 1999 provides a useful overview of child welfare in Europe that gives some broad historical background. Holman 2001 introduces the role and importance of pioneers in child welfare development. Parker 2010 is an example of a special but no means unique issue in child welfare history: exporting needy children to another country for better future opportunities. German-speaking Europe provides many useful history textbooks and readers. Hering and Schröer 2008 and Hauss and Schulte 2009 are among the most recent, not limited to central European history alone. Their bibliographies are useful sources for further study of the European history of child welfare/protection.

  • Cooter, Roger 1992. In the name of the child: Health and welfare 1880–1940. London: Routledge.

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    This is an edited volume providing ten essays on child health and welfare between 1880 and 1940. The focus is on histories of childhood from a range of different theoretical perspectives. Each chapter offers a different analysis of an aspect of child health or child welfare. A recurring theme throughout relates to the social construction of childhood.

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  • Davies, Murray, and Allan Sale. 1999. Child protection in Europe. London: National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

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    This is a very useful text that examines child protection in Europe by examining local and regional government cooperation and considers the issues for children and child protection in the context of European citizenship.

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  • Hauss, Gisela, and Dagmar Schulte, eds. 2009. Amid social contradictions: Towards a history of social work in Europe. Opladen, Germany: Barbara Budrich.

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    The third section of the book, “Motherhood policy and child protection” (pp. 185–247), analyzes Swiss, Austrian, Russian, and Finnish histories of child protection policies and practices in the contemporary framework of ideal motherhood. Appropriate resource for all levels.

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  • Hendrick, Harry. 2003. Child welfare: Historical dimensions, contemporary debate. Bristol, UK: Policy.

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    Provides a broad picture of the British history of child welfare from the 1880s to the 1990s, covering social movements, health, and social policies related to children, and is thus the most comprehensive textbook and a good resource for beginners.

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  • Hering, Sabine, and Wolfgang Schröer, eds. 2008. Sorge um die Kinder: Beiträge zur Geschichte von Kindheit, Kindergarten und Kinderfürsorge. Weinheim and Munich, Germany: Juventa Verlag.

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    In addition to German history, this volume includes articles on Swiss and Bulgarian histories of child protection, not available in English. Appropriate resource for all levels.

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  • Holman, Bob. 2001. Champions for children: The lives of modern child care pioneers. Bristol, UK: Policy.

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    The pioneers discussed in this book include Eleanor Rathbone, Lady Marjory Allen, Clare Winnicott, John Stroud, Barbara Kahan, and Peter Townsend. Each account provides an interesting insight into the work of key pioneers in U.K. child welfare history.

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  • Parker, Roy. 2010. Uprooted: The shipment of poor children to Canada, 1867–1917. Vancover: UBC Press.

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    Parker provides insight into practices of exporting needy children to Canada and elsewhere, as well as a very useful bibliography.

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  • Parton, Nigel. 1991. Governing the family: Child care, child protection, and the state. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan.

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    This is the most comprehensive history of child welfare social work in the United Kingdom, a relevant resource for postgraduate study and research.

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Reference Resources

The following reference resources are particularly useful as a starting point to study the history of child welfare in particular European contexts. They also offer gateways and links to other sources of interest. Even though the UK Child Care History Network is only recently established, it provides a forum to share and find resources across a range of disciplines. The NSPCC resource library is one of the most comprehensive ones available on childcare matters. Hidden Lives is an excellent website that provides comprehensive insight into the Waifs and Strays Society in England and Wales (which later became the Church of England Children’s Society and is presently called The Children’s Society).

Bibliographies and Databases

As in the case of Reference Resources, the bibliographies and databases cited below provide essential data and links for the study of child welfare. Intute and Social Care Institute for Excellence are generic databases with substantial sections on child welfare and related themes. The European Network of National Observations of children and the Encyclopedia of Children are generic childhood resources but have substantial sections on child welfare. The Child Data site relates mostly to the United Kingdom but also hosts a range of international resources and is the site most specifically focused on child welfare issues.

Journals

The European journals that publish most extensively on child welfare history include the British Journal of Social Work and the European Journal of Social Work. There are no European journals dedicated to the history of child welfare/protection as such, as is the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth in United States, which provides a specialized international forum for the field. Other relevant resources for European child welfare history among the American journals are Child Abuse and Neglect and Child Welfare. Children and Youth Services Review is another useful resource for exploring child welfare issues in Europe. Some journals have a policy of publishing articles on the European history of child welfare and child protection in addition to that of of family and child-adult relations.

Biographies

The two cited references, Hering and Waaldijk 2003 and Schilde and Schulte 2005, introduce about twenty European female pioneers of social work, with further references for their personal histories. For most of these women, issues of child welfare/protection and family intervention were central. These are appropriate resources for all levels.

  • Hering, Sabine, and Bereteke Waaldijk, eds. 2003. History of social work in Europe (1900–1960): Female pioneers and their influence on the development of international social organizations. Opladen, Germany: Leske & Budrich.

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    The chapter “Biographical studies” (pp. 11–116) presents portraits of twelve women activists from all over the Continent. German edition, Die Geschichte der Sozialen Arbeit in Europa (1900–1960): Wichtige Pionierinnen und ihr Einfluss auf die Entwicklung internationaler Organisationen (Opladen, Germany: Leske & Budrich, 2002).

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  • Schilde, Kurt, and Dagmar Schulte, eds. 2005. Need and care: Glimpses into the beginnings of eastern Europe’s professional welfare. Opladen, Germany: Barbara Budrich.

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    The first chapter, pp. 15–71, introduces female social work pioneers from Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, and the former Yugoslavia.

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History of Child Welfare Policy

The following resources are examples of a wide body of research-based literature that aims to draw the broad lines of historical development in child welfare policy, either across different countries (e.g., Bartley 1998 and Björk Eydal and Satka 2006 for the Nordic countries; Hearn, et al. 2004, Rahikainen 2004, and Tyyskä 1995, comparing child welfare policies in a Nordic country with another European or North American country), or across several administrative sectors of child welfare at the same time (Heywood 1978). The theoretical points of departure of the authors vary, and thus these references are quite useful for researchers.

  • Bartley, Kristina. Barnpolitik och barnets rättigheter (Child policy and children’s rights). Göteborg, Sweden: Univ. of Göteborg, 1998.

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    An analysis of the history of the development of child policy in relation to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

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  • Björk Eydal, Gudny, and Mirja Satka. 2006. Social work and Nordic welfare policies for children: Present challenges in the light of the past. European Journal of Social Work 9.3: 305–322.

    DOI: 10.1080/13691450600828358Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An example of comparative child welfare policy research in five Nordic countries. Uses historical data as a resource to discuss present issues.

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  • Doughty, Julie. 2008. From court missionaries to conflict resolution: A century of family court welfare. Child and Family Law Quarterly 20.2: 131–154.

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    This article provides historical legal analysis of family court systems.

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  • Hearn, Jeff, Tarja Pösö, Carole Smith, Sue White, and Johanna Korpinen. 2004. What is child protection? Historical and methodological issues in comparative research on lastensuojelu/child protection. International Social Welfare 13:28–41.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1369-6866.2004.00295.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the methodological problems and possible solutions in a comparative research project on child protection. Provides resources concerning the method of research, critical use of concepts, and comparative research practices in a child welfare/protection research design between two or more different cultures and/or policy regimes.

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  • Heywood, Jean S. 1978. Children in care: The development of the services for deprived children, 3d ed. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

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    This book is based on children in care in Britain. It came at a crucial time that was underpinned by a great debate about how children should best be cared for, and characterized by a move away from residential services toward adoption and fostering.

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  • Rahikainen, Marjatta. 2004. Centuries of child labour: European experiences from the seventeeth to the twentieth century. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

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    This volume is a historian’s comprehensive presentation of the European history of child labor, a phenomenon important for the birth of child-protection social work throughout the Continent.

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  • Tyyskä, Vappu. 1995. The politics of caring and the welfare state: The impact of women’s movement on child care policy in Canada and Finland, 1960–1990. Helsinki, Finland: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia.

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    This volume investigates childcare policy developments in the context of national gender policies and social policies, and is an example of an excellent child welfare policy comparison between two countries. A good resource for research.

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National and Local Histories of Child Welfare

Another rich research-based body of resources is related to national and local histories of child welfare/protection. The following books, chapters of books, and articles have been chosen as examples that have a wide application not limited to their national readership; similar or parallel developments can be found in many other regions of Europe. Dickinson 1996, Donzelot 1979, Rose 1990, Fergusson 2004, Stang Dahl 1985, and Skehill 2004 are exciting scholarly histories of child welfare or child protection in particular national contexts. Each is rich in historical details of development and represents a different methodological viewpoint. These are relevant resources for postgraduate study and research.

  • Dickinson, Edward Ross. 1996. The politics of German child welfare from the Empire to the Federal Republic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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    This volume presents an interpretation of the story of German child welfare policy over a period of conflict and compromise among social reformers, doctors, feminists, and others from the 1840s to the 1960s.

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  • Donzelot, Jaques. 1979. The policing of families: Welfare versus the state. Translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Pantheon.

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    English translation of La Police des familles, first published in 1977. This book represents a classic genealogical analysis of the birth of French family social work in the late 19th century.

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  • Ferguson, Harry. 2004. Protecting children in time: Child abuse, child protection and the consequences of modernity. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.

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    This is a critical, detailed and theoretically sophisticated British history of child protection from the late 19th century, written by a professional and academic expert in child protection social work.

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  • Rose, Nikolas. 1990. Governing the soul: The shaping of the private self. London and New York: Routledge.

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    The third section, pp. 121–209, “The child, the family and the outside world,” is a critical historical analysis of developments in child psychology, especially attachment theory, and child protection social work in Britain.

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  • Skehill, Caroline. 2004. History of the present of child protection and welfare social work in Ireland. Lewiston, ID: Edwin Mellen.

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    This is a critical analysis of the history of Irish child protection, looking back as far as 1862 and the origins of the Boarding Out system for children. It develops a history of the present methodology to examine how history can problematize present-day child welfare policy and practice.

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  • Stang Dahl, Tove. 1985. Child welfare and social defence. Oslo, Norway: Norwegian Univ. Press.

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    English translation of Barnevern og samfunnsvern, first published in 1978. A classic example of a historical inquiry into how the idea of protecting children was imported to a country, Norway, by one activist, and how it resulted in the world’s first Act of Child Protection (1899).

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National and Local Histories of Various Forms of Child Care

Residential child care in orphanages, reform schools, and other kinds of institutions for children has traditionally been the basis of child welfare/protection practices in many parts of Europe. The following publications exemplify the rich variety of references on European histories of institutional child welfare/protection and family care. They are by no means comprehensive but give the flavor of developments in selected countries. The chosen works illustrate the various local and cultural traditions common to child welfare and child protection in some eastern and central European countries, as in Iarskaia-Smirnova and Romanov 2005, and Lough and Panos 2004, Popova 2003, Szchepaniak-Wiecha, et al. 2005, and in one western European country, Vehkalahti 2009. The regions referred to are in general the parts of Europe that are less covered by child welfare reference resources in English.

  • Iarskaia-Smirnova, Elena, and Pavel Romanov. 2005. Institutional child care in Soviet Russia: Everyday life in the home ‘Krasnyi Gorodok’ in Saratov 1920s–1940s. In Need and care: Glimpses into the beginnings of eastern European professional welfare. Edited by Kurt Schilde and Dagmar Schulte, 75–90. Opladen, Germany: Barbara Budrich.

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    An example of using various data sources and research methods in investigating the institutional history of child welfare.

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  • Lough, Benjamin, and Patrick Panos. 2004. The rise and demise of orphanages in the Ukraine. European Journal of Social Work 6.1: 49–64.

    DOI: 10.1080/01369145032000099648Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An example of longitudinal historical research on childcare and protection as a part of the former Soviet Union created its own tradition of institutional child welfare.

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  • Popova, Kristina. 2003. Save the children or save the tribe? Children in the field of social care in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria between the world wars. Balkanistic Forum 1.2–3: 123–149.

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    An example of comparative historical approach for one time period in southern Europe.

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  • Szchepaniak-Wiecha, Isabel, Agnieszka Malek, and Krystyna Slany. 2005. The system of care for abandoned children in Poland 1900–1960: The development of family forms of care. In Need and care: Glimpses into the beginnings of eastern European professional welfare. Edited by Kurt Schilde and Dagmar Schulte, 112–116. Opladen, Germany: Barbara Budrich.

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    An example of using various data sources and research methods in investigating the institutional history of child welfare/protection.

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  • Vehkalahti, Kaisa. 2009. Constructing reformatory identity. Girl’s reform school education in Finland, 1893–1923. Oxford: Peter Lang.

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    Excellent case study of the social construction of female identity in a closed child protection institution for girls in Finland. Applies and develops the concept of caring power.

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Research Methods

The following references have been chosen as examples of recent innovative developments in research methods in the field of child welfare history in various parts of the Continent. Hauss and Ziegler 2008 represents a case study method common and useful in the local historical study of child welfare/protection. Hearn, et al. 2004 is a reference for all interested in comparative child welfare research and reminds us of the importance of historical aspects in comparative work. Lorenz 2008 and Parton 2008 are examples of how to explore the historical roots of knowledge and method formation in child welfare social work at different times. Satka and Harrikari 2008 and Skehill 2007 are examples of the “history of the present” approach in child welfare scholarship. These are resources relevant for students and scholars at all levels who share an interest in historical research methods and how to apply them.

  • Hauss, Gisela, and Beatrice Ziegler. 2008. City welfare in the sway of eugenics: A Swiss case study. British Journal of Social Work, Special Issue on the History of Social Work 38.4: 771–787.

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    An example of an investigation of the links and impact of one social movement, eugenics, in local welfare practices and policies during the 1920s to 1940s.

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  • Hearn, Jeff, Tarja Pösö, Carole Smith, Sue White, and Johanna Korpinen. 2004. What is child protection? Historical and methodological issues in comparative research on lastensuojelu/child protection. International Social Welfare 13: 28–41.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1369-6866.2004.00295.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the methodological problems and possible solutions in a comparative research project on child protection. Provides resources concerning the method of research, critical use of concepts, and comparative research practices in a child welfare/protection research design between two or more different cultures and/or policy regimes.

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  • Lorenz, Walter. 2008. Paradigms and politics: Understanding methods paradigms in an historical context: The case of social pedagogy. British Journal of Social Work: Special Issue on the History of Social Work 38.4: 625–644.

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    Treats the birth of social pedagogy in the context of the German nation-state, and the changing interrelationship between social policies and social work methods, a feature common in all societies.

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  • Parton, Nigel. 2008. Changes in the form of knowledge in social work: From the ‘social’ to the ‘informational’? British Journal of Social Work 38.2: 253–269.

    DOI: 10.1093/bjsw/bcl337Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An example of an analysis of the recent and ongoing history, targeted at transformations in British social work knowledge.

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  • Satka, Mirja, and Timo Harrikari. 2008. The present Finnish formation of child welfare and history. British Journal of Social Work: Special Issue on the History of Social Work 38.4: 645–661.

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    Example of a national comparison of the first establishment of Finnish child protection social work in the early 20th century with present developments in child protection. Applies some methodological ideas of a “history of the present.”

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  • Skehill, Caroline. 2007. Researching the history of social work: Exposition of a history of the present approach. European Journal of Social Work 10.4: 449–463.

    DOI: 10.1080/13691450701356895Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Develops a particular approach for writing innovative histories in social work, in particular in the area of child welfare/protection, using the history of child welfare in the Republic of Ireland as an example.

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Resources for Teaching

The following reference resources are particularly useful as a guide for creative teaching of child welfare history and related themes. They also offer links to other sources of interest for teaching. Leskošek 2009 provides many historically well-informed articles for example, how to use visual sources or dialogical method in teaching the history of gender, mostly referring to women, as well as childcare and child welfare. The same is true of the Network of Historical Studies in Gender and Social Work. The other resources are examples of the variety of useful reference resources in different parts of Europe.

LAST MODIFIED: 04/14/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195389678-0052

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