Encounters During Excursions – Inclusion and Sense of Community in the Excursions Organised by Children’s Homes
In Finnish: Kohtaamisia retkillä. Osallisuus ja yhteisöllisyys lastenkotien retkitoiminnassa
This study examines an excursion project, which was carried out at two of Save the Children’s special children’s homes in 2017. The aim of the project was to support the independent growth and development of children and young people living in a children’s home through communal hobby activities and excursions, and to build a nurturing community. This study examines how the excursion project manifests itself in the relationships between the adults and children and between peers at the children’s home. The research data has been produced at two special children’s homes, where the researcher took part in the everyday life and the autumn excursions of the homes. The encounters between young people and adults and between peers during these excursions were observed in an ethnographic manner, and in addition, seven young people and three adults were interviewed. The key concepts of the study are inclusion and community, as well as encounters and interaction.
The report describes how the excursion project was carried out, and the structure and environment of the autumn excursions. The encounters and interaction during the excursions are analysed through four concepts:attuned (Lunabba 2013), unattuned (Lunabba 2013), ambiguous and uncomplicated interaction. The social and material circumstances of the excursions, which differ from those of everyday life, create a special arena for interaction which supports inclusion and sense of community, but these differing circumstances may also prevent encounters which support inclusion and sense of community.
When secure social bonds exist, the parties can reach a state of attunement, that is that they understand each other’s world of experience through a position of negotiation. During the excursions, the roles of the young people and residential caretaker may change, as the young people and residential caretakers are able to take on more equal positions in the power relationship through joint led programmes, and this creates a basis for harmonious interaction. Discorded interaction is tense and sensitive to conflict, and there is no striving to understand the other person’s world of experience in this situation. The lack of foreseeability and structures can lead to misunderstandings and situations where residential caretakers’ position of power and authority are emphasised. An emphasis on the positions of power can manifest itself as discorded interaction filled with conflict between the young people and the adults.
During the study it was observed that the interaction between residential caretakers and young people is also ambiguous. In these situations, the parties experience the interaction differently, or the researcher perceives situations differently than the involved parties. Because of the empirical nature of interaction, dialogue is required to understand the other person’s position, as the risk of interpreting the meanings of encounters differently is great. The interaction during the excursions was also observed to be uncomplicated. Uncomplicated interaction is not built around activities, but is instead based on doing things in an unhurried way and unorganised ways. In uncomplicated encounters the young people are able to steer the situation by choosing the mode and amount of interaction, and it is the residential caretakers’ duty to give the young people the space they require for this.
In this study, inclusion and sense of community is examined on a practical level, where they are formed as part of the encounters during the excursions. Through the perspective of the study, inclusion and community can be interpreted in a wider way than simply as an administrative obligation which aims to discover opinions and where children and young people’s experiences of inclusion do not matter. At the end of the report an excursion model will be presented, which describes how the excursions were carried out with regard to encounters which support and hinder inclusion and community.
Keywords: young people; foster care; encounters; interaction; inclusion; community; excursions; child welfare