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Coming to care

Coming to care: The work and family lives of workers caring for vulnerable children

Julia Brannen
June Statham
Ann Mooney
Michaela Brockmann
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    Coming to care
    Book Description:

    Coming to Care offers an original contribution to the understanding of care and care work in children's services in Britain in the early twenty first century. It provides fascinating insights into the factors that influence why people enter and leave care work, their motivations and the intersection of their work with their family lives. Focusing on four diverse groups of workers - residential social workers, foster carers, family support workers and community childminders - who take on the care of vulnerable children and young people in the context of relatively low levels of qualifications, the book examines their life course as care workers. It explores: the range of factors that attract people into care work, including the biographical circumstances and the serendipitous factors that propel them into the work; their understandings of and commitment to the work; and how their identities as care workers are created and sustained. The book is highly relevant to current policy debates about the development of children's services and reforming the childcare workforce and offers a range of practical recommendations. It should provide interesting reading to policy makers and service providers, as well as academics and students in the childcare and social care fields.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-243-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iii)
  3. List of tables and boxes
    (pp. iv-v)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
  5. ONE Setting the scene
    (pp. 1-14)

    This book is about the work and family lives of people who provide care for ‘vulnerable’ children and young people. This includes children who are looked after by the state in either foster families or residential children’s homes, and children living in their own families but receiving additional support from social services. Such workers form part of the ‘social care workforce’, a term that is difficult to pin down and define (Eborall, 2005; Moss et al, 2006). It has been argued that the concept of social care transcends many conceptual dichotomies: between the public and private; between formal and informal...

  6. TWO The study
    (pp. 15-38)

    In this study we took a step back in time by using a lifecourse approach (Chapter one) in order to understand what attracted workers into care work in the first place, how their interest in caring and care work developed over the lifecourse and how their careers in childcare unfolded and unfold over time — past, present and future. one approach was to use biographical methods with small groups of the four types of worker. We also embedded the biographical method within a mixed methods and prospective research design. We carried out a survey of four larger groups of childcare workers...

  7. THREE The origins of a care ethic in care workers’ childhoods
    (pp. 39-58)

    Negotiating an ethic of care cannot be witnessed directly but may be glimpsed in people’s life histories and life stories and the ways in which informants present themselves and their lives. This chapter starts at the beginning of our story of care workers’ lives and addresses the question: to which periods or moments in their lives do childcare workersfirstattribute developing an ethic of care? When and where do they consider their commitment to caring for others originated? As the chapter will show, for most, their stories about care and the care ethic began in childhood, while for one...

  8. FOUR Entering care work with vulnerable children
    (pp. 59-76)

    Making sense of people’s lives and the stories they tell is a complex task. As described in Chapter Two, in the case studies we teased out the ‘biographical facts’ of care workers’ lives and the contexts in which their lives were lived from the interpretations they provided as interview informants. Both the accounts of interviewees and the way we as researchers analyse them are multilayered. In this book we have disentangled accounts about the origins of their orientations to care (Chapter Three) from those events and circumstances that relate to their entry into care work (this chapter), and distinguished these...

  9. FIVE Care workers’ careers and identities: change and continuity
    (pp. 77-102)

    In this chapter we take up the story of care workers’ careers from the point at which they first entered childcare, the focus of Chapter Four. We take the term ‘career’ to mean an individual’s progression in paid work over the lifecourse and how it interacts with their other careers, for example the career of parenthood (elder, 1978). Career as a term also has other connotations. As Rose (2004) has found, the popular notion grew dramatically in Britain between 1986 and 2002, in some cases replacing the word ‘job’ in employment opportunities advertisements. The popularity of this self-perception increased more...

  10. SIX What do vulnerable children need? Understandings of care
    (pp. 103-128)

    Having looked at how and why people entered childcare work and the identities they forged, in this chapter we turn to how care workers currently understand their work and what it means to care for vulnerable children and young people. Drawing largely upon the case studies, we consider the goals they aim to achieve with their work and the types of knowledge they draw upon including worker’s own experiences of and attitudes to parenting, their experiences of training and the attainment of credentials and professional qualifications. How care work is understood affects not only the way in which the work...

  11. SEVEN Experiences of care work
    (pp. 129-152)

    This chapter sets out to document the everyday reality of working with vulnerable children in both home and institutional settings. There is a fairly substantial literature on the attractions of care work with vulnerable children and their families, whether this be foster care (Triseliotis et al, 2000; Sinclair et al, 2004), residential care (DH, 1998; Mainey, 2003), childminding (Statham et al, 2000; Mooney et al, 2001) or family support work (Carpenter and Dutton, 2003). Common motivations across these groups include wanting to make a positive difference to people’s lives, enjoying working with children and young people, and gaining satisfaction from...

  12. EIGHT Leavers, movers and stayers
    (pp. 153-176)

    In this chapter, we consider questions concerning who stays and who leaves childcare work and why. We also examine movement between different types of work with vulnerable children, since this has particular relevance for government policies to encourage greater flexibility and transferability across the childcare workforce (see Chapter one).

    A number of studies have examined reasons for the recruitment and retention difficulties affecting the social care workforce, many of them based on cross-sectional quantitative data. For example, an investigation by the Audit Commission (2002) identified six key factors in people’s decisions to leave public sector work: a sense of being...

  13. NINE Managing care work and family life
    (pp. 177-204)

    An important part of the jigsaw in understanding childcare workers’ lives remains, namely how as parents and family members childcare workers managed to combine their work and other care responsibilities–how they connected their public and private worlds, not only over time but also on a daily basis. For these workers, caring was an intrinsic part of both work and family life, a condition with the potential to add to tensions and overload typically experienced by those juggling work and family responsibilities. If more people are to be attracted to and retained in this type of work, a consideration of...

  14. TEN Conclusions and policy implications
    (pp. 205-222)

    The study sought to examine four particular groups of childcare workers. The four groups have in common that they care for some of the most disadvantaged children in society. The children’s situations are on a continuum of disadvantage and include children of different ages (young children to young adults) with different levels of need.

    The study is unusual in having adopted atimeperspective in its multiphase, multi-method research design and in its use of a biographical perspective. In the book we have stressed how accounts of motivations and explanations for doing care work with vulnerable young people are given...

  15. Appendix: Boxes and additional tables
    (pp. 223-232)
  16. References
    (pp. 233-242)
  17. Index
    (pp. 243-247)