Institutional power dynamics in Swedish child welfare collaboration

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Collaboration in child welfare services enjoys an almost taken-for-granted status, often associated with consensus and synergetic decision-making. Although, in collaborative practice conflicts and dilemmas often occur. This paper emphasizes institutional tensions and power dynamics of collaboration in the context of hybrid organizations of 'Barnahus', on investigations of suspected crimes against children, which have the goals of a more efficient judicial process on the one hand and improved protection and support on the other hand. The paper combines institutional theory of organizational sociology with Steven Lukes' three dimensional power view. Both visible and invisible power is acknowledged, as well as the interplay between structurally based power and more action-driven power dynamics of collaboration. In central focus for the analysis is the tension between justice and welfare and associated negotiations, power games and institutional changes taking form between collaborating organizations in relation hereto. Empirically, the paper draws on material collected within the six first Barnahus centers in Sweden, consisting of interviews with coordinating staff, a questionnaire survey to collaborating organizations as well as observations of consultation meetings.


ConferenceEuropean Sociological Association Research Network (ESA RN26): Sociology of Social Policy and Welfare's midterm conference on "Collaboration and networking in welfare services"

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Work


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