photo of dining room at secure care with a red and black painted heart on top of the photo

Project: The (re)construction of family

This study explored how secure care affects family life a long time after the placement. With a narrative approach, we analysed the stories of young adults with a history of secure care and their family members, with a focus on family relations, family practices and family displays.

This project was concluded in 2022.

Project information

Project name
Project: The (re)construction of family. Family practices among young adults after placements in secure care
Project manager

Sofia Enell
Other project members
Monika Wilińska, Jönköping University, Sweden
Participating organizations
Linnaeus University and Jönköping University, Sweden
Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (Forte)
1 Jan 2018–31 Dec 2022
Social Work (Department of Social Work, Faculty of Social Sciences)

More about the project

Secure care is the most intrusive and controlling intervention in the Swedish child welfare system, designed to protect children at risk of harming themselves or others. A placement in such setting implies spending an unspecified amount of time at a place with locked units, body searches, isolations and 24-hour surveillance.

Clearly, the effects of being placed into such institutions go far beyond the surrounding walls. A secure care intervention intervenes in young people’s relations, both outside and inside of these institutions, by separating young people from previous relations and introducing them to new relations, to staff working there and peers residing there.

Similarly, family members are affected by the placement since their contact to their child or sibling is curtailed by the restrictions, but also by the often physical distance to the institutions and the sometimes lack of room for stay over. Institutional placement may therefore severely affect relations within a family by interrupting, breaking, and redefining the meaning of family and daily family practices.

In this study, we apply a relational perspective on families, which means that we understand family relations as fluid and liable to change. With this as a starting point, we engage with the concept of family within the context of secure care to explore the ways in which such care affects families, their understanding of family, and their everyday family practices.

The study is a follow-up of 16 young adults with experience of secure care. Almost ten years after the last interview, these 16 young adults were contacted again. After months of intense efforts at reaching out, 11 young adults (six men and five women between 21 and 26 years old) and 11 nominated family members agreed to participate. These interviews have been analysed with a narrative approach, meaning that we treat their stories as created in the intersection of own experiences and socially and culturally produced discourses.

The project is part of the research in the Research on Interventions and Support for Children and Youth (RISCY) research group.