9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN04 Sociology of Children and Childhood

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Everyday Life in Day-Care and After School Care Building II, C6.01

Child protection system: tensions, biological bias and children's rights

In this paper we discuss the main findings of an evaluation study about the child protection system in Portugal. The evaluation drawn (2007) included the case study of 26 child protection committees from different regions of Portugal and a systematically approach to all the institutions that locally dealt with those committees - courts, health centres, schools, social security, private solidarity institutions of the social sector. The main goal was to have a vivid picture of how the system really operates: since the moment of the report of the child neglect or abuse until the measures undertaken by the child protection committee?s. The study also included the analysis of 260 reported cases, the child protection systems of other countries and a content analysis of child neglect and abuse reported in the media.

Selecting some findings we may say that, firstly, there were several positive improvements, since 2001, and mainly that cases of children at risk are nowadays increasingly reported. But a lot of difficulties persist: prevention measures often fail and there is an obvious lack of quality and quick responses from institutions. Several factors, discussed in the paper, contribute to the fact that adoption is much less used than it could be. Secondly, professionals don't have specific training and deal with great difficulties. The necessity of parents consent in order to act makes intervention in emergency situations difficult and very frequently put children even at greater risk. Thirdly, the model of "community intervention" displays great difficulties in coordinating the intervention of each community agent.

Finally, the global principles of orientation and intervention are differently interpreted and applied. Different conceptions and interpretations about family, the "child best interest" and biological bias often imply collision of rights. Problems like the power of certain institutions over others, or even political parties? influence, affect negatively the work of prevention and child protection.

After the field work developed, and having had a more close perspective about how the system operates, we will discuss sociologically the main findings trying to access if and how children?s rights and interests are really protected.