Child protection through an abuse-focused lens : Adolescent victimization and Swedish social services responses
Abstract: Knowledge concerning the social services’ use of the Care of Young Persons (Special Provisions) Act 1990:52 (CYPA) is relatively scarce, especially when it comes to the protection of adolescents victimized by abuse. The overall aim of this thesis is to investigate and discuss different conceptualisations of abuse, adolescents’ agency regarding abuse, victimization and social intervention, and how abuse and adolescent victimization are responded to, primarily by the social services. This is done from a stance influenced by critical realism as well as victim- and child-centred responses. The dissertation consists of four papers and examines these themes in two samples of judgments and related documents concerning applications for care of adolescents aged 13-17 under the CYPA. The findings from the total study of all judgments in the selected year clearly confirm § 2 CYPA as a rare intervention to protect adolescents. In only 85 of Sweden's 290 municipalities was a CYPA application made, but a main finding is that such care to a large extent was used to protect adolescents from various forms of abuse. In the total study, the applications of § 2 CYPA concerned 196 adolescents, for 70 per cent of whom abuse was described, and where more girls (96) than boys (41) were being considered for care based on abuse. Of all the girls, 79 per cent were described as subjected to abuse and of the boys 55 per cent. Also in the smaller sample consisting of judgments for 37 girls in care under § 2 CYPA and §§ 2 and 3 CYPA, abuse was described for many. For several adolescents in both samples abuse was described as having been exerted to maintain standards of honour, shame and virginity, and/ or to enable a forced marriage. The initiative and agency of the adolescents themselves in both the disclosure of abuse as well as the decision on alternative care is one of the most striking findings in the thesis. The majority of the adolescents, 71 per cent, were categorized as having intentionally disclosed the abuse. The aftermath of the disclosure was for many of the adolescents described as intensely challenging. For the majority the abuse was denied during the investigation, not only by the alleged abusers but also by non-abusing parents and other relatives. The findings relating to the social services responses suggest that the initial response to a high degree could be understood as parent-oriented. For 33 per cent, the judgment also revealed that the abuse had been disclosed to authorities one or several times prior to the investigation leading to the application for care under the CYPA. That the abuse in these cases had been known to the social services for on average 5 years can from a child-centred position be seen as a major failure regarding the system’s ability to reach children and stop abuse. A central conclusion is that the various forms of abuse described seem more connected to domination, fear, power and control than to conflict; to some extent mirroring the kind of systematic oppression described for victimized adults seeking the protection of NGOs and public authorities. The findings imply that interventions under the CYPA may enable more child-centred, safe and stable protection of children subjected to this kind of abuse. Given the findings in the present thesis it is argued that it may be important to differentiate the concept of abuse as well as to acknowledge the agency of children in both research and in practice.
This dissertation MIGHT be available in PDF-format. Check this page to see if it is available for download.