Issue June, 2010
The European Union has declared 2010 the ‚Year of the Fight against Poverty and Exclusion’.Parallel to this programmatic declaration and in light of the economic and financial crisis that has impacted our lives in many ways, poverty and exclusion have become more current than ever and must be newly addressed.This prompted the Swiss Association for Social Work (SGSA) to title the second international congress that was held in Geneva from 21. - 23. March 2010 ‘The Fight against Poverty and Exclusion – Social Work in Times of Crisis’.
The president of the Swiss Association for Social Work, Prof. Dr. Peter Sommerfeld from the FHNW in Olten, opened the congress with the demand that social work in times of crisis should position itself by articulating its role in the complex interaction between politics, the economy, and its own practice.
In his opening speech titled ‘Soziale Arbeit in entgrenzten Gesellschaften’ (‘Social Work in Societies with blurred boundaries’) Prof. Dr. Lothar Böhnisch of the Free University of Bozen (Bolzano) contextualised the theme of the congress with a critical social analysis. The impacts of blurred boundaries and detachment on social work in the context of digital capitalism are a tendency towards weakening the welfare state, individualising poverty, and an increasing disconnect between rich and poor. Since the mid 20th century poverty has shifted from being a marginal phenomenon to becoming a structural problem within industrialised societies. Current tendencies towards blurred boundaries and detachment lead to a transformation of poverty itself: poverty has become a transnational issue.
The topic of transnationalisation was implicitly and explicitly addressed in several presentations at the congress, for example in a symposium on ‘Approaches of Social Work between transnational and regional orientations’ which was held by the Institute for Social Work of the FHS St. Gallen (Nadia Baghdadi, Christian Reutlinger and Mandy Schöne). This symposium focussed on the question whether in social work transnational strategies are the key to addressing poverty and exclusion. Empirical evidence and theoretical reflections about transnationalisation processes and social support were presented and discussed (e.g. by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schröer, University of Hildesheim, speaker of the DFG Graduate School 1474 Transnational Social Support).
During the three days of congress the roughly 400 participants from different countries, such as Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France, England and Lebanon, discussed in 4 parallel sequences, 5 symposiums, 16 workshops and 3 main lectures. The official languages were German and French. Most lectures and discussions were interpreted simultaneously.
The congress contributed to one of the main aims of the Swiss Association for Social Work, namely: ‘Advancing the exchange of knowledge – between the four language regions – and also with other European countries’.
The next international congress will be the third congress for Social Work and will be held in Zurich in 2013.
Picture: www.pixelio.de (Photographer: Peter Kirchhoff)
June 9th, 2010
Karen Smith Rotabi, Richmond, Virginia (USA)
Since the Millennium, Guatemala has sent over 30,000 adoptees to other nations, primarily destined to the United States (US). Concerns about adoption fraud have been raised and some receiving nations placed the Central American nation on moratorium, including Canada and a number of European countries (Rotabi, Morris & Weil, in press). However, the US which has been called an “adoption nation” (Pertman, 2001) continued to receive Guatemalan children until the country was closed in order to implement the reform requirements of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption (HCIA). Reform steps were developed to prevent child sales and theft and promote the best interests of the child as per the intent of the HCIA (Rotabi, 2008; Rotabi & Gibbons, 2009; for more information see www.HagueEvaluation.com).
Source: US Department of State, http://www.adoption.state.gov/country/guatemala.html
Note: 2009 data is very low because these cases were the final ones to be processed as the “old system” was closing and the new Hague-system was being developed.At the peak of this intercountry adoption (ICA) baby boom and prior to HCIA implementation, it was estimated that at least 200 US-based adoption agencies were engaged in the Guatemala largely without regulation related to their in-country or Guatemala-based activities (J. Tecu, personal communication, July, 2008). These adoption agencies ranged from those that have a long standing history with ICA, including the largest and most reputable agencies in the US. Also, a series of small agencies emerged during this time period and many of them were single-source organizations that focused entirely on Guatemalan adoptions. Quality of all the agencies varied and most notably in small agencies there were many individuals involved in the day-to-day critical child welfare and administrative activities whom lacked training in social work. Rather, they were more like small businesses and under these conditions, a number of ethical practice problems emerged and “unscrupulous” entrepreneurs—both Guatemalans as well as foreign nationals–became a known problem and a serious concern for those committed to human rights in the nation.
The problems in Guatemala have been analyzed and discussed in detail elsewhere and in previous issues of Social Work and Society News Magazine, highlighting the problems and requirements for reform under the Hague Convention (http://www.socmag.net/?tag=adoption), (other report and analysis include Gresham, Nackerud & Risler, 2003; Rotabi & Morris, 2007; Rotabi, et. al, in press; Bunkers, Groza & Lauer, 2009). A number of problematic practices have been identified. Most notably was the fact that birth mothers did not receive unbiased counseling when they signed legal relinquishment documents. Rather, it is believed that on a routine basis women received financial payments for their signatures to terminate parental rights for very young children (Bunkers, et. al, 2009).
The majority of all children sent overseas were less than two years of age and most were infants. In 2007, it was a frequently mentioned statistic that approximately 1 in 100 newborns would be placed in intercountry adoption (Rotabi, 2007). Not only were these payments unethical by adoption practice standards, but they were illegal and they led to international press claims of baby sales and theft dating back to at least the year 2000 when the United Nations released a provocative and controversial report identifying cases of abuse and core systems reform issues (UN, 2000). Questions about a baby market verses child protection have persisted and one research report in 2007 actually entitled “Adoptions in Guatemala: Protection or Market?” resulted from a collaborative group of Guatemalan professionals (including the Archdiocese Office of Guatemala). Their analysis indicated that of those cases sampled (N=1083), 86% of adopted children were age one year or less, with an additional 5.4 % being aged between 1-2 years old. In other words, the majority of those children sent abroad as adoptees were infants and, as a result, the idea of a “baby market” or “baby trade” has persisted (Adoptions in Guatemala: Protection or Market?; 2007; Kapstein, 2003).
Regardless of these ethical concerns, the demand for young children and infants continued and well over 4,000 US families applied for adoptions annually during the final baby boom years, even in the face of warnings from the US Embassy and other credible sources. Those warnings were related to allegations about different forms of trickery and coercion used by “birth mother recruiters” and Guatemalan attorneys who organized the in-country process (Rotabi & Bunkers, 2008). Additionally, adoption “facilitators” were implicated in allegations of wrong-doing, mainly related to false paperwork and dishonest interactions with families (Rotabi, 2008). Eventually, there were clear child theft allegations and in 2009 legal proceedings, cases of child kidnappings for the adoption industry have been officially alleged; including evidence of DNA-test fraud (see http://www.socmag.net/?p=540).
Due to these problems and calls for system reform, Guatemala closed as a sending nation for almost two years from the beginning of 2008 to late 2009. Only recently in the final quarter of 2009 did the nation re-open with new practices consistent with the HCIA. The Guatemalan Central Adoption Authority (referred to as the CNA, its Spanish acronym) announced, at that time, that the system would begin receiving applications from the Central Authorities of other nations that were interested in Guatemalan adoptions. There were ten countries that expressed an interest including Sweden, Israel, Norway, Spain, France, the US, Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Denmark (Dora Alicia Munoz, Personal communication, December, 2010; CNA website). The second part of the process is that the Central Authorities recommend two accredited agencies for consideration. From this pool, the CNA will review documentation and select only four accredited bodies to begin a small number of intercountry adoption placements. The profile of eligible children includes school-age children, sibling groups and children with physical, emotional or developmental disabilities (Dora Alicia Munoz, Personal communication, December, 2010).
This significant decrease in the flow of children for ICA has resulted in a market shift to other nations where young and healthy children are available for intercountry adoption—most notably to Ethiopia which has emerged as the new and even trendy source of children for ICA. This is thanks in large part to famed actress Angelina Jolie’s adoption of Zaraha, as well as its reputation for having expedient procedures and young, relatively healthy infants (Mezmur, 2008). Ethiopia is not party to the Hague Convention although it does have an official system for processing intercountry adoption cases.
This African nation has become the new “adoption destination,” for the same reasons that Guatemala originally became the popular choice for hopeful families. The system is relatively expedient; the children are typically young as demonstrated in the numerous websites of US agencies which highlight the fact that “Children from 3 months to 15 years of age are available for adoption. Children will be at least five months old when they come home with their adoptive parents” (All God’s Children International Website, 2010). The majority of the children sent abroad as adoptees are fairly healthy, and national oversight of foreign adoption agency practices is relatively lax thereby making the process user-friendly for families willing to pay approximately $20,000 USD for their adoption. This number, interestingly, is relatively inexpensive within intercountry adoption programs and agencies even use this as a selling point for potential adoptive families. One US-based agency states on their website that there are “lower costs as compared to other international adoption programs” (Adoption Associates Inc Website, 2010).
As a baby adoption boom begins in Ethiopia, a number of problems are becoming apparent and some of the small agencies which previously focused solely on Guatemala moved or shifted to the African nation. It should be noted that, for some of these agencies, a shift to Ethiopia was the only way for the agency to remain fiscally solvent—in other words, Ethiopia has become the next big country for those agencies that were previously focused primarily on Guatemala. This leads to obvious concerns. Supporting this concern is a note that the US Embassy in Ethiopia has placed a message on their website in the section on adoption. This message politely warns potential adopters that there have been “recent allegations of misconduct in Ethiopian adoptions” and reminds people that the US Consulate is required to investigate whether the adoption is legal and if the child is eligible to immigrate under US immigration law (US Embassy in Ethiopia website, 2010).
As stated previously, Ethiopia has not ratified the Hague Convention and, as a result, agreed upon international monitoring systems preventing child sales and thefts are not implemented. This means that US agencies which are not Hague-accredited may continue to operate in this nation—including those that have actually been denied Hague accreditation due to their failure to demonstrate capacity to engage in Hague-practices (internationally agreed upon child welfare standards). One such agency, the Florida-based Celebrate Children International, was denied accreditation and their practices related to Guatemalan adoptions have been documented in numerous complaints to the child placement licensing authority of the State of Florida (the Department of Family Services [DFS]), indicating serious concerns as about ethics and general practices as voiced by their own consumers/placement families. A recent request of Florida DFS for records related to complaints indicated that there are well over a thousand pages of documents related to complaints and the allegations include alarming recounts of dishonesty. However, the agency now reports having a strong program in Ethiopia including humanitarian aid.
Growth in Ethiopian Placements
When looking at Guatemala and Ethiopia together, one can see the direct link between the closure of ICA in Guatemala in 2007 and the significant increase in the number of children being adopted out of Ethiopia by US families. In 2007, 1,254 Ethiopian children were placed with US Families. In 2008, the number had increased to 1,724 placements. Numbers for 2009 are expected to reach approximately 2 277; almost doubling in a two -year span (US Embassy in Ethiopia, 2010) which coincides with the closure of Guatemalan adoptions. Even more shocking is the comparison of 2006 figures with those of 2009. In a three year period, the number of children adopted by US families increased three-fold from 731 to 2,277 (US Embassy in Ethiopia website, 2010). This is an increase of more than 500 placements per year as illustrated in the table below.
It is important to note that Ethiopia has also become the first or second sending country for France, Spain and Italy. Together, all countries processing intercountry adoption with Ethiopia placed a total of 3,551 children in 2008. France, for example placed 403 children in 2007 (Ethiopia was the top sending country) and in 2008, the number increased to 484 placements (French Central Authority, 2010). Belgium placed 14 children from Ethiopia in 2005 and in 2009, 143 children were placed making Ethiopia the top sending country to Belgium (Belgium Central Authority, 2009). Italy, for example, placed 256 children in 2007 and increased that number to 338 in 2008 (Italian Adoption Commission, 2009); illustrating that Ethiopia has become the so called country du jour for the majority of receiving countries.
US Agencies: Not All are Equal
The US Embassy in Ethiopia website mentions that there are “more than 20 US-based agencies” authorized by the government to provide adoption services. It goes on to recommend that “Americans contemplating adopting in Ethiopia should take great care in selecting the necessary steps to ensure that the selection of an adoption agency” is well researched including references from other adoptive families (US Embassy website, 2010). One could easily infer that this is a very diplomatic way of suggesting that not all agencies are the same and caution should be used in selecting a professional and competent agency. Of the twenty or more US agencies working in Ethiopia, the majority of agencies are not accredited as per Hague Convention guidelines which provide guidance and requirements for child placement standards (Rotabi, 2008).
Given the increasing number of Ethiopian children being placed in intercountry adoption, it is important to note how and from where these children are coming into the adoption process. There are two ways that children can enter the system; through direct relinquishment by the biological family or through abandonment procedures. Interestingly, the situation in Ethiopia is the opposite of Guatemala pre-2007. In Guatemala, most children were directly relinquished by birth mothers, which facilitated a quick adoption process through a notary system which operated with almost no judicial oversight—a process fraught with problems (Rotabi, Morris& Weil, in press; Rotabi & Bunkers, 2008). Children who were declared abandoned or had abandonment cases pending were frequently left out of the adoption process as the court hearing to declare them abandoned and thereby eligible for adoption took years to complete. A study on institutional care completed by Holt International and UNICEF in 2007 demonstrated this trend by showing that out of approximately 6,000 children in residential care, more than 21 % or 1,260 children were there because of “abandonment;” the leading cause of institutionalization according to the report (Perez, 2007).
This is the exact opposite scenario of Ethiopia where direct relinquishment cases tend to require more time for the judicial process and abandonment cases proceed faster; thus presenting another array of issues and concerns regarding unethical practice. The rules concerning relinquishment were recently tightened, regarding more detailed reports from Kebele (local government) offices regarding the family circumstances of the biological family. This resulted in an increase in children declared as “abandoned.” A confidential source states that “In May 2009, as a response to the growing trend of abandonment cases, the First Instance Court suspended approval of all adoptions of children registered as “abandoned” in Addis Ababa. In June 2009, officials from a US adoption agency were arrested while carrying a van load of infants and toddlers from the capital to a city in a different region. They were in the process of being declared abandoned in Addis Ababa courts when the moratorium took place and were being taken to a different region to be “reprocessed” as abandonment cases as a way to circumvent the court-imposed delay in Addis Ababa.”
What is Known: Unethical and Illegal Practices
The idea that children are “easy” to obtain in Ethiopia was sardonically highlighted in an article published in an Ethiopian online magazine in 2009, “People in Merkato jokingly say that if you go to ‘Bomb Tera’—a name of a place in Merkato- there is nothing you cannot buy, including a child” (Maru, 2009). This comment not only presents commentary on the availability of everything at Africa’s largest outdoor market, but simultaneously portrays the “market” approach to finding children as well as the weakness of the protection system to protect vulnerable children. The same article goes further in presenting a concerning picture of recruitment of children for ICA by noting that an employee of a non-governmental organization (NGO) joked that getting a child for adoption could be facilitated for 2,000 Birr (approximately US$175) (Maru, 2009). Joking aside, what resonates is children entering ICA might not always be entering via legal and ethical channels.
A fall 2009 documentary television special by ABC news of Australia, entitled “Fly Away Children” highlighted the activities of “Kings Children” and USA-based “Christian World Adoptions” in rural villages. Footage included a representative of “King’s Children” videotaping children in a catalogue fashion to document those children “available” for adoption, including the children’s circumstances of poverty and care needs. The footage showed a blatant disregard for the dignity of those being taped, including family members and the children themselves. This videotaping was being used as a way to photo-list and market children through their partner, “Christian World Adoptions.” The message of the documentary was that children were being treated as an item of merchandise rather than a human services case and this system does not guarantee self determination or integrity of the process. Since that special was aired, the Australian government has closed Ethiopian adoptions to their nation in November, 2009 (State Government of Victoria, Australia).
Meeting the Family—Visits to the Village
Another concerning practice which appears to be emerging is adoption agency travel planning for families, to include visits to villages in order to meet family members. On the surface this may appear harmless, but when outsiders (who are mainly Caucasian and relatively wealthy) visit villages bearing gifts of thank you, this sends a clear message to the entire community. Arriving in high-end vehicles and clearly being people of privilege is, for people living in extreme poverty, an extraordinary and bizarre as well as confusing experience. Celebrating a hand-over of children from a poor family to a relatively wealthy and foreign family is a questionable practice. From an ethical and child welfare point of view, the activity is not only concerning, but exacerbates the already vulnerable situation of the biological family as well as the entire community. The activity itself may well be a mechanism for recruitment of other families and the result may be the identification of children who were, prior to the practice of village visiting, well-cared for in a family system. However, the influence of these meetings and public displays may well send a strong message and in fact capitalize on the vulnerabilities of other families that may be swayed to follow suite, sending their child to a distant and wealthy nation.
Ethiopia is estimated to have one of the largest populations of “orphaned” children in the world. Most recent statistics place that number at approximately five million (Ethiopian Ministry of Health, 2008). Caution must be taken when touting this number, though, as it includes both single and double orphans. This means that a large percentage of children included in this number actually have one living birth parent, thus placement in intercountry adoption might not be in their best interest, nor even appropriate to consider. In addition, the vast majority of these children are over the age of five and thus less considered less “adoptable” by those preferring an infant or toddler.
Unfortunately, Ethiopia has emerged as one of the most active “sending nations” in the world in 2009-2010 and the nation is not truly prepared. Problems regarding ensuring ethical practice in ICA will require careful consideration in the nation, specifically the prevention of child sales and theft. While there has been discussion about Ethiopia signing the Hague Convention, and in-country deliberations are taking place to assess what legal and systems changes are required for the Hague ratification to be possible, progress to date has been slow. A concern is that publicity about scandalous ICA practices might drive demand for reform rather than a more proactive or positive initiative that can be developed thoughtfully by the Ethiopian government. The question is, how long will it take and how many abuses of children’s rights will occur before appropriate action is taken?
Adoption Associates Incorporated website. Retrieved on January 13, 2010 from http://www.adoptassoc.com/international/ethiopia/
Casa Alianza, Presidential Commission for Human Rights [COPREDEH], Myrna Mack Foundation, Survivors Foundation, Social Movement for the Rights of Children and Adolescents, Human Rights office of the Archbishop of Guatemala, Social Welfare Secretariat. (2007). Adoptions in Guatemala: Protection or market? Guatemala City, Guatemala.
All God’s Children International website. Retrieved January 20, 2009 from http://www.allgodschildren.org/adoption/ethiopia/
Australian Broadcasting Network (2009). Fly Away Children. Retrieved October 10, 2009 from http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/content/2009/s2686908.htm
Baby snatchers boom (2000, July). New Internationalist, Retrieved May 6, 2004, from http://web23.epnet.com/citation.asp?tb=1&_ug=dbs+f5h+sid+8E1A00BF%2D412A%2D923B%2
Belgium Central Authority for Adoption. Retrieved from http://www.just.fgov.be/adoption/adoption_stat_an.html on January 29, 2010
Bunkers, K. M., Groza, V., & Lauer, D. (2009). International Adoption and
Child Protection in Guatemala: A Case of the Tail Wagging the Dog. International Social Work, 52(5), 649-660.
Consejo Nacional de Adopciones website. Retrieved from www.cna.gob.gt on January 19, 2010
Ethiopian Ministry of Health and Federal HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Office (2008). Single Point HIV Prevalence Estimate Document. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
French Central Authority, “Service de l’Adoption Internationale. Retrived January 25, 2010 from http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/actions-france_830/adoption- internationale_2605/index.html
Gresham, K., Nackerud, L., & Risler, E. (2003). Intercountry adoption from Guatemala
And the United States: A comparative policy analysis. Journal of Immigrant &
Refugee Studies, 1 (3/4), 1-20.
Italian Adoption Commission (Commisione per le Adozione Internazionale). Retrieved from http://new.commissioneadozioni.it/media/54739/report%20cai%20i%20semestre%20200 9.pdf January 29, 2010.
Kapstein, E. B. (2003). The baby trade. Foreign Affairs, 82(6),115-125.
Maru, M. (2009). On International Adoption of Ethiopian Children. The Reporter. Retrieved
July 01, 2010 from http://en.ethiopianreporter.com/content/view/1282/1/ July 01, 2010 from http://en.ethiopianreporter.com/content/view/1282/1/
Mezmur, B. (2008). From Angelina (to Madonna) to Zoe’s Ark: What are the “A-Z” Lessons for
Intercountry Adoptions in Africa? International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family
pp. 1-29. Oxford University Press.
Perez, L.M. (2008) ‘Situation Faced by Institutionalized Children and Adolescents in Shelters in Guatemala’, Guatemala City: USAID and Holt International Children
Pertman, A. (2001). Adoption nation: How the adoption revolution is transforming America.
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Rotabi, K. S. (August/2009). Guatemala City: Hunger protests amid allegations of child
kidnapping and adoption fraud. Social Work and Society News Magazine. Retrievable from http://www.socmag.net/?p=540
Rotabi, K. S. (2008, Jan/Feb). New intercountry adoption requirements. Immigration Law Today,
Rotabi, K. S. & Gibbons, J. L. (2009). Editorial. International Social Work, 52(5), 571-574. Retrievable
Rotabi, K. S., Morris, A. W., Weil, M. O. (in press). International child adoption in a post-
conflict society: A multi-systemic assessment of Guatemala. Journal of Intergroup Relations.
Rotabi, K. S. & Bunkers, K. M. (November/2008). Intercountry adoption reform based on the
Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption: An update on Guatemala in 2008. Social Work and Society News Magazine. Retrievable from http://www.socmag.net/?tag=adoption
Rotabi, K. S., & Morris, A. W. (July/2007). Adoption of Guatemalan children: Impending changes under
the Hague Convention for Intercountry Adoption. Social Work and Society News Magazine.
Retrievable from http://www.socmag.net/?p=171.
State Government of Victoria, Australia, Department of Human Services (2009, November).
Interim suspension of Ethiopia-Australia program, November 2009. Retrievable from http://www.cyf.vic.gov.au/intercountry-adoption/library/news/interim-suspension-of-the-ethiopiaaustralia-program-november-2009
United Nations Economic and Social Council Commission on Human Rights (UN) (2000). Rights of the child: Report of the special rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Ms. Ofelia Calcetas-Santos (Publication No. GE.00-10417). Retrieved January 8, 2007, from http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?c=74&su=82
United States Embassy in Ethiopia website. Retrieved January 13, 2010 from
Picture: www.pixelio.de (Photographer: Juana Kreßner)
Karen Smith Rotabi is Assistant Professor of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University, USA.
June 8th, 2010
Martina Volfova, Decin (Czech Republic)
The assistance service for families with children, held by the Charity Association Decin (a civic association), is a registered social-activating service for families with children and it has been working in Decin since 1997. The services are run in the households of families that want to change their life situation. Besides we also work with children who need help with their school preparation but their parents cannot help them for various reasons. Altogether 5 assistants, 5 volunteers and 12 part-time workers who help above all with school preparation work for about 25 families and 45 children.
In 2007 and 2008 the assistance service was running a project supported from the grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway in the framework of the financial mechanisms of EHP and the Norwegian financial mechanism, maintained by the Foundation of Development of Civil Society. One of its parts was developing and increasing collaboration with other local organizations in Decin which work with families. With the centre of educational care in Decin we established a very intensive cooperation. That is why we decided to develop this collaboration even further in the continuation of this project. In this way a new sort of service combining therapeutic work of the centre of educational care with the field work in families of the assistance service appeared. The basic idea is that the field work can help update and develop the impulses from the therapeutic appointments in the natural environment of families. That can intensify the therapeutic work and connect it better with the everyday reality of clients.
The typical client of this service is a family where behind educational problems of children there is a deficit in emotional aspects. The causes can be a complicated divorce of parents or the absence of one of them, a confused situation connected with frequent changes of spouses of the parents and moving or establishing of new families where half-siblings or step-siblings live together and sometimes some children may get neglected. So far we have worked in this way with 11 families.
If a family for which this way of work could be a suitable solution appears and the family agrees with collaboration we arrange an informative appointment. There we meet the family and trace the basic area for the future collaboration. Then an assistant starts to visit the family who works with them on the task set. They can also work on an order exceeding the frame of the originally set area of collaboration. At the same time the family attends the therapeutic programme of the centre of educational care. Once every two months the assistant meets the employee of the centre of educational care working with the family to discuss the progress achieved and outline the next steps. The family can also participate at that meeting but our experience is that it is usually complicated for them to arrange it or they lack the interest in such a negotiation. In such a case either the assistant or the centre employee informs them about the results of the negotiation.
Both the organizations agree that this way of work in families seems to be very efficient. The therapeutic work of the centre of educational care brings precious stimuli for the assistants in the field so they have a feeling that their work is better targeted and they can touch the roots of the problem which the family is solving faster. Moreover, the clients are often really well motivated for the collaboration and they really want to change their situation. In some other cases the families collaborate with us rather to avoid troubles with authorities or interventions of the social and legal protection of children but their real interest in changes is not big. For the centre of educational care the work of the assistance service makes the therapeutic work more intense. Between individual appointments the clients have a chance to recall stimuli coming from the previous appointment and work on their incorporating in their everyday reality in collaboration with the assistant who is in direct and regular contact with that reality. Then it is more likely that those stimuli will really get incorporated in the family system. At the same time the assistance service also helps to solve problems for which there is not enough time in the centre of educational care.
As an example we would like to mention our almost two years’ collaboration with Mrs. R. and her seven-year-old (now already nine-year-old) son Jack. At the beginning of our cooperation Mrs. R. was living with a man who was abusing her and she wanted to leave him. The biological father was not interested in Jack and he was paying the alimony irregularly so Mrs. R. depended economically on her spouse and that made her decision to leave him more complicated. Due to the confused environment and violence in the family Jack developed attention deficiency and stammer and even some psycho-somatic troubles appeared. That led to his first stay in the centre of educational care and cooperation with his mother. Later Mrs. R. left her spouse and spent a few weeks with her son in the asylum. She was not able to cope with the regime there so she solved her situation entering a relationship with another man and moving in his flat. The relationship failed soon and Mrs. R. solved the situation in a similar way again. Within one year Jack changed his address and school twice, which did not help his psychical condition very much. The collaboration with Mrs. R. was aimed at two basic areas: to help her keep Jack in the centre of her attention in spite of her own troubles and in this way to prevent deteriorating of his problems and to help her stabilize her life situation to protect Jack from other radical changes. In both the areas the support of the assistance service was very important because on the one hand Mrs. R. wanted to care about Jack properly but she had also a very unsystematic personality and tended to solve coming situations hastily without thinking about consequences. When there were only the therapeutic sessions once every three or four weeks her situation often changed so much in between two appointments that the results of the previous appointment were not relevant anymore and everything started from the beginning again. The more frequent visits of the assistance service helped to keep the continuity in the cooperation. Moreover, the assistant could also solve with Mrs. R. her housing situation and help her find her own rental flat so that she would not depend only on a man she meets.
Nowadays Mrs. R. is living in her own rented flat with a valid contract for eight months. The stabilization of the situation has calmed Jack down a lot. The stammer has almost disappeared and gradually it is possible to incorporate him in the school collective and education. We still work with Mrs. R. on particular situations connected with upbringing of Jack so that she can arrange a safe environment for him which her son needs for his healthy development but there has been considerable progress in this family.
Within the almost two years’ cooperation between the centre of educational care and the assistance service in Decin this model combining the therapeutic and field work in families has proved to be very efficient and we hope we will be able to develop it also in the future and maybe even include other organizations in the region.
The author is working at the Charity Association Decin.
Picture: www.pixelio.de ( Photographer: sassi)
June 8th, 2010
Klaus Schneider, Luxembourg
What are job seekers facing at the present time?
Because of globalization and the digital revolution of recent decades, a growing number of people are being laid off. Especially low-qualified, disadvantaged job seekers are at risk of long-term unemployment. While in past phases of change in the working society, new perspectives almost always arose for disadvantaged groups, this no longer seems likely given the current circumstances of the digital revolution. In contrast to preceding waves of modernization, neither sociopolitical nor employment policy measures can guarantee a long-term reintegration of disadvantaged job seekers into the working process.
A range of different instruments and methods has been utilized to fight unemployment, without significantly reducing it. While up to the 1990s, most job seekers could be integrated into some kind of employment – at least temporarily – these policies are proving ineffective at the beginning of the 21st century. The prospect of reintegration or employment in the first labor market has declined continuously over past years. Many job seekers rotate between phases of unemployment, employment in job creation schemes and various qualification and assessment measures organized by the employment office. Due to structural unemployment, an enduring integration into the labor market is becoming an illusion for many job seekers. A major proportion of the unemployed will continue to move through the waiting loops of the employment and qualification institutions and not accomplish re-entry into employment on the first labor market.
Economic and social changes are causing an increasing release of individuals from social determination (Beck 1986; 2000, Galuske 2002). This individualization is what characterizes the modern society of digital capitalism (Böhnisch/Schöer 2002). These processes of change mark the starting point for the prognosis on the end of the society of full employment (cf. compare Giddens 1999, Negt 2008, Gorz 2000). Rifkin’s assumption “The end of employment and its future” (1995) is currently being confirmed. Individuals are increasingly discharged; employment changes continuously. This will result in an incessant segregation on the labor market and a broad exclusion of disadvantaged persons in the decades to come. The change in the labor society will not take place in the following generation, as was case with past change processes. Instead, it will take place within the current generation of employees – in the form of changing working conditions and demands.
The continuous adaptation to changing working conditions has been implemented in the European Employment Strategy as part of the proclamation on life-long learning. But it will also cause a further exclusion of employees who possess neither the resources and capacities for an adaptive behavior modification nor the competence to cope with the transition to a flexible working life. The dissolution of normal phases of employment forms the labor society. Discontinuity becomes normality. The rotation between diverse workfields, destandardized working conditions, and temporally flexible employment is becoming an element of the employment biography. This change to a high-risk reality of life can cause a permanent withdrawal from working life, especially for persons in precarious employments. Work and societal integration, or rather participation, lose meaning for the identification of individuals with the labor-focused model of society in the second (digital) modern era.
The coping strategies needed during these transition phases, as well as a flexible adaptation to changing circumstances and occupational perspectives, become key competencies during discontinuous employment courses. The former occupational fixation after successfully overcoming the first and second transition phases is being replaced by a flexible arrangement of changing conditions on the labor market: the capability to cope with unemployed phases and the flexible (re-)integration in new working conditions. The delimitation of occupational socialization and traditional occupations, as well as the transitions between unemployment and the first, second, or third labor markets, require the existence or provision of resources for a flexible arrangement. Because of a lack of financial, social, or psychological resources in this delimited labor society, coping is connected with a high risk of social deprivation, especially for educationally disadvantaged persons. The adaptation to changing working conditions is a must to ensure their livelihood.
Due to the growing number of discontinuous employment biographies, coping with unemployment is moving toward the center of attention of sociopolitical strategies. Services involved in labor market politics work within a field of conflict between placement-focused qualification and a holistic, pedagogical orientation toward coping with precarious employment biographies. Moreover, qualification, training, and placement into a regular employment cannot be realized for all individuals.
How to cope with structural unemployment?
Facing the circumstances described, the following questions arise: How to cope with structural unemployment, and which capabilities have to be guaranteed by society?
Until now, there are no standardized methods and instruments to measure resources and competencies to cope with unemployment and unstable life courses that have been adapted to a Luxemburgish population of job seekers. Thus it seems meaningful to analyze how coping with unemployment and coping with instabilities in the employment biography can be enhanced and measured. A measurement of coping competencies is especially important, because the resources and competencies to cope with precarious situations in life are distributed very unequally.
Thus the goal of Inter-Actions is to develop an instrument to assess coping competence. Its theoretical background is based mainly on concepts from the capability approach first elaborated by the popular economist and political philosopher Amartya Sen.
Moving beyond the concept of employability – the capability approach as a call for new instruments
As an alternative to the human capitalistic model of employability, the capability approach by the Indian economist-philosopher and Nobel prize laureate Amartya Sen does not just focus on the utility of resources and abilities for their usage-oriented application on the labor market (Sen 2000: 348 ff; Dean et al.: 5ff). Sen extends the approach of usage maximization, “rational choice” (Rawls 2009; Sen 200: 339; Sen 2003: 19; Nussbaum 2001: 88ff) by trusting in not only thinking of individual advantage but also the societal sense of responsibility for all individuals. The realization of individual goals requires the societal access (“process aspect of freedom”) and equal opportunities (“opportunity aspect of freedom”) that enable options for freedom of choice (Sen 2003: 5; Sen 200: 28f). “Sen’s primary use in the notion of capability is to indicate a space within which comparisons of quality of life (…) are most fruitfully made. Instead of asking about people’s satisfactions or how much in the way of resources they are able to command, we ask, instead, about what they are actually able to do or to be” (Nussbaum 2001: 12). By this definition, poverty, unemployment, and social disadvantages are not reduced to lacking access to income, but are a consequence of a lack of freedom. In the sense of the availability of access and ability to trade, this freedom is defined as “capability” (Sen 2000).
This is not only a theory of distributive justice encompassing the access to goods like living space, nutrition, education, work, healthcare, or culture. In fact, the approach discusses whether, on the societal macrolevel, all humans are provided with the material, institutional, and societal premises that enable a successful life (Otto/Ziegler 2008: 9ff). Based on this model, Martha Nussbaum developed a catalogue of ten criteria (Nussbaum 2001: 77ff). “Most importantly, Sen has never made a list of the central capabilities” (Nussbaum 1999: 86). This “list of capabilities” presents a catalogue of claims, or rather, a test catalogue, to capacitate all citizens to a self-determined, good life (Nussbaum 1999: 86). This capability to a good life (Grundmann 2008: 132) is the core of the “capability approach.”
In any consistent application of this concept, all job seekers have to be offered jobs, or rather employment, in order to assure their existence (Zimmermann 2004).
The model of coping competence
According to the coping concept of Lazarus (Lazarus 2006: 101ff), individuals have to be empowered to (re)produce their sense of self-efficacy and to perceive themselves as the actors in their own biographies. Following this model, phases of unemployment are seen as a crisis that may cause psychological and physiological destabilization, social isolation, delinquency, and disintegration (Hurrelmann 1989; 13ff; Kieselbach/Wacker 2006).
The utilization of social resources and the strengthening of self-confidence promote a proactive way of handling unemployment. Efforts for coping with unemployment should focus on the individual resources of the persons concerned. Furthermore, the support systems, that is, counseling centers, employment offices, as well as employment and qualification institutions, should not only concentrate on compensating support efforts, but also ensure the individual’s capability to cope with discontinuous biographies.
Among others, the construct of coping competence comprises the psychological construct of resilience. The term resilience is derived from the Latin word “resilire” (to rebound, to recoil). In physics, resilience is the label given to the ability of a material to bend under pressure without breaking. Thus the term is a synonym for elasticity and flexibility. Resilience incorporates the competence to deal constructively with the demands and challenges of life and to appraise them as manageable rather than threatening. Resilience is a learnable ability (Siebert 2006) that can be modified and strengthened over the life-course (Wustmann 2005).
The term salutogenesis was introduced by the American-Israeli medical sociologist Aaron Antonovsky. It focuses on protective factors that defend and strengthen health and is perceived as a contrast to pathogenetic approaches. Salutogenesis essentially concentrates on the sense of coherence (SOC), which includes the comprehensibility, manageability, and meaningfulness of one’s own life (Antonovsky 1997). The theory assumes that the development of an SOC ends at the latest by the age of 30. In contrast, the resilience approach works with the hypothesis that resilience or coping competencies can ameliorate throughout the life-span.
Emily Werner and Ruth Smith started a study with 698 children on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and followed them up for 40 years. Although growing up under the same circumstances, risk factors, and conditions of socialization, they found that one third of the children developed in a healthy way – despite adverse precarious life-events, health impairments, experiences of poverty, and a low parental education level. Protective factors enabled these children and adolescents to achieve healthy development even though confronted with precarious life-events.
Both the capability approach and the concept of salutogenesis are based on the provision of resources. Antonovsky describes resistance resources, which can be drawn from different areas of life (i.e. in the proximate social environment, on a societal or cultural level), whereas Sen’s resources are primarily but not exclusively based on income or civil rights. Resistance resources and capabilities are very similar: Both need a medium if an individual is to be able to use them. In the concept of salutogenesis, the SOC acts as such a medium and enables an individual to use her or his resistance resources to attain a goal. In the capability approach, conversion factors are needed to convert resources into capabilities.
Keupp, in contrast, states that capabilities are very similar to resistance resources. An explanation for these two different points of view might be that certain capabilities are required to attain other capabilities. The connection is not linear, but more circular. Thus, none of the views described above can be rejected as being wrong. Both can be integrated into a circular model.
Furthermore, Keupp (2009) points out that Antonovsky names sociostructural and political processes as important prerequisites for resistance resources. Thus, the focus is on the connection between an individual’s agency and the enabling structures that need to be created on a societal level. Sen made a very similar statement: “Indeed, individual agency is, ultimately, central to addressing these deprivations. On the other hand, the freedom of agency that we individually have is inescapably qualified and constrained by the social, political and economic opportunities that are available to us. There is a deep complementarity between individual agency and social arrangements. It is important to give simultaneous recognition to the centrality of individual freedom and to the force of social influences on the extent and reach of individual freedom” (Sen 2000, p. XI). The 13th child and youth report to the German Federal Government concluded that the capability approach and the concept of salutogenesis share a common view on the promotion of health. A human being is a self-determined individual who is capable of acting and who requires and uses certain resources to cope with stressful demands in order to maintain or regain health. It is the duty of the institutions to directly enhance the resources of the persons concerned and to create structures that empower individuals to make use of their rights and to render them more capable of acting (Sen 1975: 38).
Another important component of coping competence is perceived self-efficacy (Bandura 1977). Perceived self-efficacy describes the expectation that one will be able to execute actions successfully on the basis of one’s own competencies. One component of perceived self-efficacy is the concept of locus of control. Established by Rotter (1966), it measures an individual’s beliefs regarding how far events can be influenced. A locus of control is internal when an individual attributes an event as the consequence of own behavior, while a locus of control is external when this event is appraised as being independent of one’s own behavior or control.
An additional dimension of coping competence is the concept of coping. Coping describes a strategy needed to overcome critical life-events. Richard Lazarus defined the term in the 1960s (Lazarus 1966, Psychological stress and the coping process, New York). The coping concept contains activities and efforts to deal with adverse situations (Lazarus & Launier 1978). The stress theory of Lazarus assumes that the appraisal of an adverse situation depends on the extent to which one disposes of the resources to successfully overcome it (Lazarus 1991, Emotion and adaptation).
Another dimension of coping competence is the modern concept of empowerment. In Social Work, this term is used as a positive notion for available resources and competencies. Empowerment is also described as self-competence. The social scientist Julian Rappaport defined the term for the first time in 1985. It integrates the word power – power which is supposed to be used to empower individuals to use their resources for a successful life-management (Herriger 1997). This empowers persons to cope with problems in critical stages of life in an effective and self-determined way. Empowerment also incorporates the opportunity to strengthen humans so that they will rediscover their resources and competencies and use them for a successful life. Empowerment allows the persons concerned to see themselves as engineers of their own life-worlds and to arrange their lives in a self-determined way. The term describes “a self-initiated and self dependent process of (re)creation of sovereignty on the level of everyday relationships, but also on the level of political participation and creation power” (Herriger 1997:14).
Empowerment processes enable the persons concerned to solve problems or rather to escape from an attitude of helplessness and determine their life-situation on their own. Empowerment also encompasses the issue of resources that has received a lot of attention. Therefore, empowerment is an activating process characterized by participation opportunities, self-responsibility, and autonomy.
An instrument to measure coping competence
The concepts described above served as the theoretical background for the development of an instrument to assess internal resources and competencies for coping with critical life-events. We derived the dimensions it examines from the scientific literature on coping with critical life-events and from interviews with experts from the Social Work sector in Luxembourg.
We labeled the constructs to be assessed interaction capacity, self-fulfillment orientation, diversity of perspectives, and positiveness. The relevance of the operationalized dimensions is described in the context of discontinuous life courses.
The construct of interaction capacity encompasses not only competent social behavior but also a self-confident demeanor. The concept of competent social behavior taps whether an individual acts empathetically and openly toward others, whereas self-confident demeanor taps whether the individual behaves self-confidently and asserts her or his interests in the presence of others.
The construct self-fulfillment orientation is operationalized by scales on the self-reflective approach to problems and positive concept of own competence. A person with a distinctly self-reflective approach to problems addresses them actively and observes her or his behavior while doing so. The scale positive concept of own competence measures how an individual appraises her or his competence to achieve a goal.
Diversity of perspectives is operationalized by the scales creativity of goal attainment and flexible creation of the future. Creativity of goal attainment measures whether an individual tries various ways to reach a set goal. The scale flexible creation of the future measures whether a person disengages from unattained goals to pursue new ones to which he or she adapts.
The construct of positiveness is divided into a healthy distance and an optimistic outlook. The scale positiveness assesses whether a person maintains an inner calm and balance despite a difficult situation. The scale optimistic outlook measures how hopefully or confidently an individual appraises her or his future.
Each scale will contain about ten items. Along with the clients’ demographic variables, their aspirations and motives will be assessed during the course of the data collection.
The novelty of this instrument is that it will be available in three languages. The participants will be able to choose between Luxembourgish, German, and French. Furthermore, much attention is being paid to formulating easy-to-understand items. The next step will be to offer an auditory version of the instrument. Persons with limited reading skills will then have the opportunity to listen to the items, instead of or in addition to reading them.
Extract taken from: From Employability Towards Capability. Edited by Hans-Uwe Otto & Klaus Schneider. Luxembourg 2009, page 117-126
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Dean, Hartley/Bonvin, Jean-Michel/Vielle, Pascale/Farvaque, Nicolas. 2005. “Developing capabilities and rights in welfare-to-work policies”. European societies, 7 (1): 3-26.
Galuske, Michael. 2002. „Fördern und Fordern“. Anmerkungen zur Sozialen Arbeit im „aktivierenden Sozialstaat“. 26. Tübinger Sozialpädagogentag 22. und 23.11.2002. Tübingen.
Giddens, Anthony. 1999. Der dritte Weg. Die Erneuerung der sozialen Demokratie. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp.
Gorz, Andre. 2000. Arbeit zwischen Misere und Utopie. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp.
Grundmann, Matthias. 2008. Handlungsbefähigung – eine sozialisationstheoretische Perspektive. In Otto, Hans-Uwe/Ziegler, Holger (eds., 2008), Capabili¬ties – Handlungsbefähigung und Verwirklichungschancen in der Erzie¬hungswissenschaft, 131-142. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.
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Hurrelmann, Klaus. 1989. Warteschleifen. Keine Berufs- und Zukunftsperspektiven für Jugendliche. Weinheim: Beltz Verlag.
Keupp, Heiner. 2009. Gesundheitsförderung durch Kinder- und Jugendhilfe – Perspektiven des 13. Kinder- und Jugendberichts. Vortrag im Rahmen des Forums Kinder- und Jugendhilfe München des Sozialreferats der Landeshauptstadt München am 5. März 2009. http://www.ipp-muenchen.de/texte/keupp_09_forumkjh_text.pdf. (Zugriff am 19.10.2009).
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Picture: www.pixelio.de (Photographer: Maroc Greitschus)
The Autor works in Luxemburg at the institution FORWARD and is founder of the European Anty Poverty Network Luxemburg (EAPN).
June 8th, 2010
Colleagues from Netherlands have launched an internet website on history and present of social work in netherlands which collects articles, information and more.
You find the website at: www.canonsociaalwerk.eu
June 8th, 2010
Gareth Wall (United Kingdom)
A new website www.residentialchildcare.ning.com that is dedicated to networking with fellow professionals in Residential Child Care has been launched. It is meant as a kind of professional version of facebook where there is a space provided to discuss the nuances of Residential Care any time of the day and night. It is free and there are no conference costs or travel arrangements to make. There are now over a 140 members within the world of Residential Child and Youth Care.
Residential Child Care is about nurturing young people and allowing them to grow and fulfill their potential. I believe that this is the same for us as professionals and this website will allow us and others to give confidence and support those that we work with and those that are members of the network.
There are areas on the website devoted to sharing information including, Children’s Home Managers, Social Pedagogy, Best Practice, Reflective Practice, Restorative Justice, Help and Advice,Training and Events. Jonathan Stanley from NCERCC in England is already a member and is participating in discussions on the site along with Jennifer Davison the Director from SIRCC.
The purpose of the site is that of a community to share ideas and problems and provide a place that professionals can network. Hopefully with a growing membership we will be able to help solve some of the problems and find new and innovative ways of working.
June 8th, 2010
We introduce the following new publications:
Laurinkari, Juhani (Ed.) in cooperation with Veli-Pekka Isomäki
Health, Wellness and Social Policy. Essays in honour of Guy Bäckman
Studies in Comparative Social Pedagogies and International Social Work and Social Policy Vol. X
Social and Health Services are at the core of the debate in Europe. On the one hand the topic tackles on of the vital points of the claimed European social Model. On the other hand, politics around these services are very much about their liberalisation and managerialisation. The 21 contributions that are gathered in this volume take up on this topic and show the complexity of the topic. And it is only by spanning from the fundamental questions around human and social rights to the concrete analysis of service provision and use of services. The contributors to this volume span across different fields of expertise and come as well from different national and regional backgrounds. This opens the way of communicating common grounds but as well the way of engaged discussions that are concerned with the actual meaning of general positions when it comes to societal and social practice. This reflects very much Guy Bäckman´s research that includes many areas of health-, social- and welfare policy. The Festschrift “Health, Wellness and Social Policy” had been compiled in his honor. The authors want to recognize the important contribution Guy Bäckman made over the years; and they want it by fostering the further debates in this area.
Elieth P. Eyébiyi, Peter Herrmann, Veronica Sheen (Eds.)
Global Crossroads in Social Welfare. Emergent Issues, Debates and Innovations across the Globe
Studies in Comparative Social Pedagogies and International Social Work and Social Policy Vol. XI
This volume brings together a cross-section of papers presented at the 33rd International Council of Social Welfare (ICSW) conference in Tours, France, in July 2008. Although it is a more or less random compilation, the contributions raise important topics offering great insight into the multiplicity of ways that nations and communities are responding to the challenges of globalisation as well as internal demands for greater social justice and equality as well as mechanisms for civil society. The authors are working across disparate national settings which makes it especially interesting by providing very different perspectives and allows as well to look at possible convergences. A main issue is a global approach to social policy and social development but tailored to local communities is required. It is as well underlined that limitations on strict “professional” domains can easily do more harm than allowing gain.
New William Thompson Paper:
Peter Herrmann: Social Quality – Social Policy and Beyond
You find the paper here: http://www.ucc.ie/en/socialpolicy/WilliamThompsonWorkingPapers/
June 8th, 2010