Doctoral Dissertation

11.1.2019 M.A. Auli Pohjolainen (Facul­ty of Hu­ma­ni­ties and Social Sciences, Social Work)


11.1.2019 12:00 — 15:00

Location: Muu , Ulappa-sali (Kokkolan yliopistokeskus Chydenius)
M.A. Auli Pohjolainen defends her doctoral dissertation in Social Work: "Julkista lastensuojelun perhetyötä yksityiskodissa".

Opponent Senior Lecturer Aino Ritala-Koskinen (University of Tampere) and Custos Professor Aila-Leena Matthies (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in Finnish.


The purpose of this doctoral dissertation in social work is to illustrate the open care child welfare support that is conducted in private homes. Family work in this study is seen as essentially morally charged work, because the study’s theoretical background approaches social work from a perspective of reflective, relation-based theory. The object of the study is parents’ and family workers’ experiences of family work, especially within a private home setting.

The research data were collected from eight family workers and eight parents from six different families. These individual interviews were conducted as thematic interviews in 2014 and 2015. The data were analysed using thematic content analysis, adapting a phenomenological-hermeneutic approach. The concept of moral agency served as an interpretational context while the thematic interviews were analysed by forming categories, called ’meaning entities’.

These meaning entities attached to family work and home by the parents and the family workers were mainly similar. However, some tension can be perceived from the interview data. Both parties regarded respect, trust, joint planning and guided support as central. According to my findings, relations of recognition and support are the working resources of public child welfare, which strengthen the identity of parenting and citizenship.

Family workers guided family members towards different services. However, these efforts were recognized to be outside the scope of ordinary family work. Among the parents, this citizenship-supporting service coordination was seen as an extra benefit. Reflective professionalism is a prerequisite of moral agency. The parents emphasised the traits of family workers that can affect the work. These included confidentiality, patience and flexibility in a family´s everyday life situations.

Good family work can be described as jointly realised action that is situational and engages the parents. From the perspective of the development of moral integrity, the parents and the family workers had differing views on values, which proved to be challenging in the homes. The tensions that appeared related to education practices, working with other parties and/or the family members’ feeling of control at the beginning of family work.

The gender of the family worker was perceived to be linked to the development of the children’s identity development. There were also differences in the experiences of privacy between the parents and the family workers. Differences related to the openness of the home environments and the topics of conversation.

According to the findings, relations of recognition provide a basis for accepting support in the situational, unforeseen, charged and multifaceted child welfare family work conducted in private homes. Family work as institutional support and the supervision work of child welfare can be seen as a social virtue, the goal which is to enable families to live a good daily life and highlight the child’s best interests.