An exploration of ‘child voice’ and its use in care planning: an ethnographic study with a looked after child
AbstractThis thesis uses an ethnographic study to interrogate the policy discourse of capturing ‘child voice’ specifically in relation to a ‘looked after’ child. In recent years, attempts have been made to involve children who are ‘looked after’ in discussions and decisions about their care arrangements to ensure that their voice is heard. To ensure this happens, children ‘in care’ are asked about their care placement regularly as part of the care planning review process and their views are incorporated into decisions about their care plan. This study focuses on the lived experiences of a seven-year old female child, who I have referred to as ‘Keeva’, who is ‘in care’ under a Kinship Care arrangement. Over a period of a year, I was based in Keeva’s home one afternoon a week to gain insights about her lived experience as a ‘looked after’ child and how she represented herself. I also observed three care planning review meetings to see how her voice was captured by those charged with her care and how she was represented. I relate Keeva’s experience through seven narrative episodes to capture the rich complexity of the social world she inhabits. I explore aspects of her home and family, her interactions with others and her experience of exploring physical spaces both inside and outside the home. I suggest that these experiences underpin her sense of self and how she relates to others. Drawing on the ideas of Bourdieu, I suggest these experiences and her sense of place in the social order write themselves ‘onto her’ through her habitus and dispositions. Using a Foucauldian lens, I problematise the notion of voice as I contest that the child I observed engaged fully in the statutory processes that surround her. I suggest Keeva, a child who is ‘looked after’, will neither have nor feel she has the agentive properties to influence the care planning process. Instead, as her voice is irrevocably bound up in a bureaucratic process that is uncritically accepted as representative of her, she is obscured as a consequence. I also examine the multivocity in representations of Keeva highlighting the competing discourses of safeguarding, child protection and the ’rights-based’ agenda. I conclude that Keeva was not well represented in care planning reviews and had very little influence in decision-making about her care plan. Despite believing the opposite, those charged with her care failed to hear her or take note of what she said. Furthermore, there was an absence of criticality in representations of Keeva allowing Keeva to be constructed by those professionals involved with her care, in an unchallenged way. As a consequence she was silenced and less visible than the process itself.
CitationBacon, J. (2015). An exploration of ‘child voice’ and its use in care planning: an ethnographic study with a looked after child. (Doctoral dissertation). University of Chester, United Kingdom.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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