Mellan klient och rättssystem - Tvångsvård av barn och unga ur socialsekreterares perspektiv (Between the client and the legal system - Compulsory care of children and young persons from a social worker perspective)

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This dissertation focuses on assessments concerning children and young persons in the Social Services. The aim has been to describe and analyse the compulsory care process from a social worker perspective, and to understand and explain how this affects the practice of child welfare. I have used case files from the Social Services and focus group interviews with social workers as empirical data. The analysis is primarily inspired by Lipsky's theory about street-level bureaucracies, and Hasenfeld's theories of human services organisations. I have also used a critical perspective regarding the limitations of the legal system, and how these affect social work practice.

Social workers experience a high level of uncertainty when they have to assess if compulsory care is necessary. My analysis shows that social workers associate the compulsory care process with a risk of losing control of the case. This risk could be minimised by three strategies. The first strategy was to wait for legal evidence that supported their personal moral conviction that compulsory care was in the best interest of the child. A second strategy was to use a problem focused argumentation in written assessments to make sure that the Court made the same assessment as the Social Services. A third strategy was to mention some good things about the family, and especially about the parents and their resources, in written assessments, so that they did not turn their backs on the Social Services if the application for compulsory care failed (?the logics of balancing facts?). The analysis also shows that social workers tend to use different kinds of argumentation depending on whether the case concerns parental neglect or abuse, or if the child/young person has an antisocial behaviour. Cases concerning antisocial behaviour are presented in a massive problem centred way, whereas cases concerning parent's neglect or abuse of children are presented in a more vague and ambiguous way. The consequences are that social workers create different images of the child and the parents in written assessments, depending on whether they primarily try to control/influence the decision of the Court or the parent's future cooperation with the Social Services.

One conclusion is that compulsory care is not regarded as a safe way of saving children and social workers tend to focus their assessment work on achieving parent's consent to care, which is regarded as a safer way to gain control of the case.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Work


  • Social problems and welfare, Samhällsvetenskaper, children and young persons, Compulsory care, parents, neglect and abuse, antisocial behaviour, social workers, assessment, discretion, power, child welfare, Social sciences, legal system, national insurance, Sociala problem, social välfärd, socialförsäkring
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2007 Oct 26
  • Lunds universitet, Socialhögskolan
Print ISBNs978-91-89604-36-0
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2007-10-26 Time: 10:15 Place: Edens hörsal, Paradisgatan 5, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Lundström, Tommy Title: Professor in Social Work Affiliation: Stockholms universitet, Socialhögskolan ---

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