An object in need of protection but not a subject of rights? : A study on rights of children involuntarily placed in care in the Swedish welfare state

Sammanfattning: The practice of locked coercive care of children occupies a unique position in the Swedish welfare state. It is one of the most intrusive interventions into private life the State can practise, and the only welfare intervention that involves the use of coercion: firstly, through the involuntary placement of a child in a locked institution, and secondly, through the use of coercive measures, such as placement in isolation cells, body searches and restrictions on the use of mobile phones or internet.  It is justified on the grounds that it is an act of protection and that the state has the ability to improve the child's life, but is repeatedly criticised for exposing children to neglect, violations and violence.This dissertation examines the translation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) into coercive care legislation as a regulatory response to the above-mentioned issues. The turn to universal rights as a way to solve complex problems at a local level often results in unintended problem formulations and tensions. In this case, the translation of the CRC into national coercive care legislation actualises a tension between lawful use of coercion in order to ensure children a safe and secure care, and demands on respecting children as autonomous subjects of rights. This study specifically addresses how this tension is articulated and negotiated in the translation process.Through an analysis of official documents, interviews with Members of Parliament and audit inspectors, the study highlights an overreliance in the CRC and the translation process as means to address issues of neglect, violations, and violence within locked coercive care. It raises awareness of how children’s rights function as strategies of power, used to legitimise increased coercion, discipline and control. Further, it illustrates how children’s individual rights are expected to regulate the welfare state’s use of coercion, and discusses how this results in increased demands on holding children responsible for realising their right to a safe and secure care. This fragmentation of social responsibility is found to be related to how different logics of the Rechtsstaat, institutional inertia, an intensified law and order debate and processes of neoliberalisation are working in tandem, shaping how these children's rights are interpreted and realised. Consequently, this dissertation adds to the literature concerning the reasons for potential failures when translating universal children's rights into local contexts.