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  • 2015williamsphd

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A critical analysis of looked after children in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies: an ethnographic study

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Published
  • Khadijah Williams
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Publication date2015
Number of pages368
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Publisher
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The study was informed by an interest in the relational aspects of children’s participation and how children’s participation can practically be shifted from being a transactional experience to a transformational, participatory experience. It highlights the complexity of the issues involved in children’s participation and how it actually works in practice in a residential child care context. It provides deeper insights into the social, cultural and political issues that influence how children participate and relates these to the larger discourse of development ethics, children’s citizenship and agency.
Ethnographic research was conducted in two major children’s homes in Trinidad and Tobago for a period of two years where children’s participation in decision making processes was the key focus of attention. Data analysis using a combination of the scientific qualitative software, Atlas.ti7, and the constant comparative method, revealed five essential themes related to the participation experiences of children in residential care. These themes are: the complexity of caring relationships between adults and children; participation, paternalism, resistance and resilience; Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as a new site of conflict for children’s participation; how adults and looked after children negotiated meaning at the broader policy level and positive aspects of residential child care. A combination of ideas from development ethics, critical social work theory, children’s agency and care ethics has been applied to the analysis of children’s participation, which includes four key areas: (1) the meaning of increasing children’s agency in residential care; (2) the interdependence of adults and looked after children; (3) children’s participation as an indigenous experience and (4) children’s experiences as collective decision makers.
This research therefore presents useful insights into children’s participation in post-colonial Trinidad and Tobago and presents findings which challenge traditional assumptions held about children by adults as being incompetent and dependent. It also provides an alternative approach to understanding children’s participation which incorporates adult-child relations as opposed to only taking a rights-based approach. Although the findings cannot be generalised to all children’s experiences regarding participation, knowledge about how to identify children’s participation and its relational issues might be transferable. There are lessons from the adults’ and children’s experiences which will be useful to policy makers, researchers, children themselves and practitioners in the field of child welfare and children’s rights.