Ifrågasatta fäder - Olika bilder av fäder till socialt utsatta barn
Sammanfattning: This dissertation deals with fathers of children subjected to child welfare investigations. They are "fathers called into question" and their fatherhood is not very much investigated so far. The dominating picture is that the fathers are absent, to their children as well as in research and social work literature. Two Swedish contexts are presented. These represent different interpretations of "the best interest of the child". Both are of importance to the social services' image of fathers called into question. The first context is about social policy and gives prominence to fathers as emotionally important for their children. The other context is about child welfare where children sometimes have to be protected from their fathers. The aims of the thesis are to examine 1) the images of fathers and the relationship to their children expressed in case files; 2) the images of fathers and the relationship to their children expressed in interviews with administrative social workers; 3) fathers' own experiences of the social services, their perspectives of fatherhood and the relationship to their children. I have examined 40 case files, interviewed 13 social workers at two social welfare offices, and interviewed 19 fathers. In the case files the image of fathers stands out as fragmented, but from the information available it was evident that fathers were recognized as important for children. By involving fathers in the child welfare investigation and documenting it, the social workers could argue that they live up to what is expected from them according to the general discourse of fatherhood in social policy, namely to strengthen fathers' relationship to their children. However, in cases where the fathers did not have custody of their children the social workers could use their own discretion to decide whether fathers should be contacted or not. In the interviews with the social workers the image of the fathers was characterized by an ambiguity between the various interpretations of the notion "in the best interest of the child". On the one hand the social workers gave prominence to fathers as important for their children, in accordance to the intentions of social policy. On the other hand, in the social workers' practical work it could be necessary to protect children from their fathers. Furthermore a conflict between traditional and modern fatherhood was evident. The social workers maintained traditional gender roles at the same time as they tried to create modern fathers. The fathers' images of their own fatherhood is characterized by mixed feelings. They felt misunderstood by the social services and expressed powerlessness, and felt stigmatized. They had to fight to be active and present fathers for their children and to be seen as such. However the fathers gave an image of themselves as normal fathers. Many of the fathers thought that they lived up to their own image of good fatherhood even if it was hard sometimes. The children had an important place in their lives and they also thought that they were important to their children.
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