Knowledge and Research in Child Protection - The Experts’ Point of View

Elina Pekkarinen

(In Finnish: Lastensuojelun tieto ja tutkimus - Asiantuntijoiden näkökulma)

Project: The Knowledge and Research in Child Welfare

This report is based on national interviews with child protection experts that were used to collect information about expert views on the state of child protection, the most critical gaps in research and suggestions on how to improve the co-operation between different agents. There were 23 focus group interviews with participation by 87 child protection experts from 44 institutions – universities, vocational high schools, sector research institutions and centres of expertise and organizations in the field of social work. The interviews were recorded, and the memos based on the recordings analyzed thematically using the Atlas.ti program. The frame of reference for the analysis is Jürgen Habermas’ theory of knowledge interest.

The interviews with experts confirmed the poor availability and fragmentariness of the research data needed in child protection. There is a need in the field for basic information, such as the reasons for the need for child protection, backgrounds and customer paths. The basic knowledge of different practices is also insufficient. Lack of basic knowledge makes practical child protection work and research significantly more difficult. Studies of the efficiency of different practices are needed, and long-term follow-up studies with a sufficiently large sample are needed. Child protection also requires qualitative information about the ideologies, policies and history behind child protection and understanding of children’s rights, child welfare and inequality. Knowledge about different cultures and ways of life is essential for co-operation with customer groups. There is also a need for emancipating knowledge in child protection about the experiences, supervision of interests, participation and rights of the parties involved.

The interviews specifically evaluated the state of research on the issues of taking children into care. Research on this topic is remote and basic knowledge about the subject is lacking. Studies should be focused not only on the process of taking into care, but also on the children and their backgrounds also during the time following the process – foster care and aftercare. Research data about the everyday life and close relationships of children in care is insufficient.

Interviews with experts show that there is a serious lack of knowledge and coordination of information in the field of child protection that complicates planning, implementation, informing and prediction. Interviews showed that preparations for creation of a permanently funded structure for child protection research must immediately be started in Finland.