Trust, control and separation in children's after-school care
Department of Sociology University of Helsinki Helsinki, Finland
In Finland, young (6-9 year old) school children's after-school time has come under state legislation and regulation relatively late, in international comparison. The implementation of the Act on school children's morning and after-school care in 2004 reflects changes in welfare politics and systems of governance starting in the 1990s, changes which foreground productivity, efficiency and flexibility also in public administration, social inclusion, and the need to "invest" in children. The implementation was surrounded by public discourses portraying the risks children run into when spending after-school time in and around their homes and forcefully arguing for a reorganisation of children's after-school time.
In this paper, the social construction of children's after-school time will be discussed as the interplay between discourses, institutional practices and material conditions shaping children's experiences and agencies in after-school care. The "after-school case" is discussed as a reflection of, and a way of dealing with cultural ambivalence resulting from the emergence of new arenas for children's agency. These arenas are opened up by contemporary economic, cultural and technological changes, resulting as well in new uncertainties about the distinctions between children and adults and about children's proper place in society. How these uncertainties are approached and dealt with in the after-school case will be discussed in terms of (diminishing) trust and new forms of social control aimed at minimising risk in children's everyday life and maximising children's safety and social inclusion. The concepts of "separability" and "separation", and the difference between them (Nick Lee), open up a critical perspective on these discursive constructions and institutional practices framing after-school activities.