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Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences
Master i International Social Welfare and Health Policy
The aim of this master thesis is to explore NAV family social workers own descriptions of children’s participation within their work with low-income families. It asks what role the family social workers have in involving and listening to the child and how their choices are influenced by the structural matters sorrounding street- level bureacrats working in NAV, but also the normative personal values of the family social worker. The theme springs out from my engagement for children’s rights and the belief that children needs to be included in realities of their life to be able to develop and become the best version of themselves. My own working and volunteer experience with children in Norway, and me being a mum in Oslo makes me especially engaged in the topic of childhood poverty. Facing though critics the last years, NAV employees has got a somehow bad reputation. This thesis seeks to give the NAV employees themselves a voice, and possibilities to reflect upon possibilities and challenges related to children’s particiaption in their work. This thesis builds on qualitative in-debt interviews with six NAV family social workers in Oslo. They represent two different NAV offices that both have a «family team» were the social workers only work towards families with children. In addition to litteatur review of relevant research and laws, I was observing a hearing together with Save the Children on children’s perspectives of childhood poverty. The thesis is influenced by my engagement and experience working with children. Inspired by Lipsky’s concept of street-level bureacracy and Sommar et.al’s understanding of the importance of difering between child- perspective and children’s perspective I prepared for, listened to and analyzed the infomants’ desciptions og children’s particiaption. Their descriptions linked children’s participation to being concerned about the child during the assessement, asking the parents about the child, seeing the home-environment of the family, looking on the interaction between the parents and the child within the home, talking to the child itself. The material indicates that children’s participation in NAV is highly variating, but in most cases can be linked to what Sommer et.al calls child-perspective (2010, vi) where children’s participation are seen as adults attention towards children experiences and perceptions of growing up in a low-income family. On the other hand, some describes bringing children’s perspectives as very important and a goal in their work. Their differences in the children’s participation can among others be linked to: structural matters, rationing, time-constraints and discretion, but also variations in personal values, perceptions of children’s position and protection. This thesis theme is particularly notable for social workers, but also for child protection workers, teachers and others working with children within their everyday work. Childhood-poverty is increasing in Norway, and those one working to assist them needs to find ways and search for approaches for children’s participation that are assessing children’s needs from their own perspectives and treat them as citizens with their own rights, not only within the law, but also in practice.
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