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Unaccompanied young refugees with experiences of war in institutional care in Sweden. A social pedagogical analysis of the narratives of young persons and institution personnel
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of pedagogy. Lund University. (Kriminal- och socialvetenskapligt nätverk; Institutet för kunskaps- och metodutveckling inom ungdoms- och missbruksvård (IKM); Centrum för specialpedagogisk forskning (CSF))ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6151-0934
2018 (English)In: Presented at: Social Pedagogy and Social Education: Bridging Traditions and Innovations, International Conference, Mexico, 22-24 Feb, 2018., 2018Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The purpose of the study is: 1) to analyse the narratives of young people who have experienced a war, fled to Sweden and been taken care of and placed in institutions, 2) to analyse the narratives of institution personnel about the day-to-day work of taking care of young people who have experienced war. The material used in the study has been gathered by means of interviews with young people in care with experiences of war, and interviews with personnel at HVB homes who work with these young people.

The previous research shows that the social pedagogic perspective is one of the perspectives in social sciences that stresses the importance of including the individual in the community. The individual is given confirmation of his or her identity by participating in the community, and successful interaction between individuals is a fundamental prerequisite for the successful integration of unaccompanied children and young people in Sweden. The researchers highlight the importance of interaction between those already established in the community and the individual who is on its margin. One of the most important dimensions from a social pedagogical perspective is to analytically investigate relationships between individuals needing help and the professional participants tasked with helping these individuals as part of their professional role.

A social pedagogue works in a variety of social contexts in which individuals need professional help with integration and success in those contexts. This can involve students in school; inmates at youth institutions and prisons; children, young people and adults who are the subjects of intervention by social services; patients undergoing psychiatric treatment; and other individual categories where people find themselves in critical life situations and need professional help to overcome them.

The writings of for example Lisbeth Eriksson, Juha Hämäläinen and Xavier Ucar provide insights into some expectations that come into play in the various social contexts of the role of a “social pedagogue.” A social pedagogue is portrayed as an expert who works with a specific and defined goal. The goal is to help/guide the client to overcome obstacles that hamper integration and success in the context. In order to do this, social pedagogues are expected to possess specific professional qualifications in order to support and motivate their clients in overcoming obstacles and meeting their goals. A social pedagogue works in a socially oriented way and plays an educational fostering role. It is anticipated that this will help the client develop an understanding of how to act in accordance with desired expectations, norms and values and to resist peer pressure and involvement in anti-social activities. A social pedagogue is also expected to supervise other professional categories in the context of the various issues related to the client’s living conditions. In addition, the social pedagogue is expected to act as a link between different professions with the goal of facilitating collaboration that supports the client’s social and educational development (when the client is a child or young person, the social pedagogue is expected to also collaborate with parents). The social pedagogue sometimes has a limited scope for action; the role has low status and standing in relation to other professional categories involved. The role of the social pedagogue is portrayed as diffuse, unspoken and full of contradictions in relation to other professional categories in the organizational hierarchy. The role of social pedagogue tends to assume a controlling and repressive function as support for other professional categories in the context.

In conclusion, there are major variations in what is expected of a social pedagogue. A common denominator is that the mission of a social pedagogue and the context in which the social pedagogue operates appears to be sufficiently flexible to enable an individual to play the role in a wide variety of ways. It is only when the individual social pedagogue adopts an active, assertive, independent, personal and relatively strong posture that he or she has a chance to be of importance to other professional categories and for the client. This means in practice that it is only when the individual social pedagogue transcends the expectations of the role presented above that he or she has a chance to be appreciated by other collaborators.

Lisbeth Eriksson and Juha Hämäläinen illustrate four important dimensions of the social pedagogical perspective. The first of these focusses on goals in the context to be achieved by means of social pedagogy. In this dimension, the importance of the participants’ socialisation is brought to the fore in the context by, among other things, integration and mobilisation of all forces in the community with the aim of helping the individual who is on the margin of the community. The second dimension focusses on the correct social pedagogic approach, especially in the relationship between the professional participants and the individual in need of help. The professional participants working in accordance with the social pedagogic perspective are empathic towards the individual requiring help, while also being aware of the specific expectations of the professional role. The third dimension focusses on appropriate social pedagogic methods in the work with the individual who is in need of help. Methods considered to be appropriate are the dynamic methods based on the individual as part of the group and part of a wider social context (such as environmental therapy). The fourth dimension focusses on social pedagogy as a resource for professional work with the individual who is on the margin of the community and in need of help. In this dimension, there is emphasis on the importance of the correct approach by the professional participants, with the goal of creating progress in the relationship with the individual in need of help by means of well thought-out dialogue and action.

If we borrow analytical glasses from Hämäläinen and Eriksson, we can read the following from this study: 1) social pedagogic target groups - as represented by a) young people in care who have experiences of war and who were subsequently placed in HVB homes in Sweden, b) personnel at HVB homes who work with these young people; 2) social pedagogical arenas - as represented by various contexts that are brought to the fore in the study’s empirical material (war context, migration context while fleeing to Sweden, migration context during integration into Sweden, institution context, school context etc.; 3) social pedagogical roles - as represented by various roles that are brought to the fore in the study’s empirical material (victim of war, student, homosexual, empathic personnel, competent personnel, incompetent personnel etc.). 

Analysis of the study’s empirical material shows that the lives of young people in Sweden are characterised by uncertainty; they do not know if they will be allowed to stay in Sweden, whether they will have the opportunity to keep attending school or whether they will ever get to see their parents again. The material provides a picture of a waiting period that involves a considerable adjustment for these young people, regardless of whether or not they are given leave to remain in Sweden.

The time after first arriving in Sweden can seem like a prelude to starting a new life, a prelude which is sometimes characterised by a continuing flight. The war goes on and is present in stories. Interviews with personnel at HVB homes and young people in this study are sometimes extremely emotionally charged. There may be painful stories about, for example, someone’s entire family and everyone living in the village fleeing from a Taliban attack, about how their best friend was killed in a suicide attack, about how Russian and government forces in Syria harass women (“sisters”). The stories are also about friends and relatives who are taken away and never return, a father who was executed, a difficult journey to Sweden, as well as about personnel at HVB homes who are empathic, who understand and try to help young people, but also about others who belittle and abuse young people and even contribute to the risk of worse mental health in young people.

Analysis of empirical material has crystallised out the following themes in interviews with young people: a) war as a permanent social condition; b) school in the home country becomes demonstration, demonstration becomes school; c) learning war (war as pedagogical practice); d) normalising/ neutralising the condition of war (“playing football”, “as normal”); e) flight from war is also war – or part of the war (deprivation of liberty/abduction, slave labour); f) the future in Sweden (struggle for social recognition/recognition of identity – for example as student, employee, person, breadwinner and homosexual).

In interviews with institution personnel, the following themes have crystallised out: a) previous chaos in reception centres in Sweden, now more orderly; b) young people singled out and stigmatised by society; c) importance of empathic attitudes and humanity; d) no treatment is offered or given in the institution; e) main task: to help young people to integrate in society; f) there is collaboration with other professional categories, but it is limited (no more than what is essential); g) young people’s age as a problem; h) young people are described as greedy (reason for coming to Sweden); i) maltreatment in institutions; j) (in)competence of personnel.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018.
Keywords [en]
social pedagogic, social pedagogue, unaccompanied young refugees, war, residential home, care home, HVB home, institutional care, narrative analysis, institution personnel
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Social Sciences, Studies of Professions; Social Sciences, Social Work; Social Work, Social Psychology; Social Sciences, Sociology; Education, Social Pedagogy; Education, Special Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-71125OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-71125DiVA, id: diva2:1186248
Conference
Social Pedagogy and Social Education: Bridging Traditions and Innovations, Social Pedagogy Association; Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Puebla, Mexico; Arizona State University, Tempe, USA (20180222-20180224). ”Unaccompanied young refugees with experiences of war in institutional care in Sweden. A social pedagogical analysis of the narratives of young persons and institution personnel”.
Note

Social Pedagogy and Social Education: Bridging Traditions and Innovations, Social Pedagogy Association; Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Puebla, Mexico; Arizona State University, Tempe, USA (20180222-20180224). ”Unaccompanied young refugees with experiences of war in institutional care in Sweden. A social pedagogical analysis of the narratives of young persons and institution personnel”.

Available from: 2018-02-27 Created: 2018-02-27 Last updated: 2018-03-02Bibliographically approved

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