Negotiating client positions: parents with custodial disagreements talking about their experiences with child welfare workers





Nordic Social Work Research;Volume 7, 2017 - Issue 3


Taylor & Francis



Children living with prolonged parental custodial disagreements are in a vulnerable position and may be in need of child welfare assistance. However, the responsibilities of the child welfare service (CWS) in cases involving custodial disagreements are unclear. This article examines how parents with custodial disagreements narrate and make meaning of their encounters with child welfare caseworkers. These professional encounters occur in a legal grey zone between the family law system, dealing with issues of residence and contact, and the child welfare system, dealing with issues of possible child abuse or inadequate care. The article draws on interviews with 15 Norwegian parents, and uses clientization and positioning as analytic tools to analyse the parents’ accounts of how they are categorized by the professionals. More precisely, by introducing the concept of client position, the article shows how parents describe their negotiations with caseworkers regarding what constitute problems in the family and how these problems might be dealt with. The analysis identified three main client positions being available for parents in grey zone cases: the legitimately concerned parent, the parent in conflict, and the parent lacking ability to care. Implications for the child’s client position and prospect of child welfare involvement are discussed.




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