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Care ethics in residential child care : a different voice

Steckley, Laura and Smith, Mark (2011) Care ethics in residential child care : a different voice. Ethics and Social Welfare, 5 (2). pp. 181-195.

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Despite the centrality of the term within the title, the meaning of ‘care’ in residential child care remains largely unexplored. Shifting discourses of residential child care have taken it from the private into the public domain. Using a care ethics perspective, we argue that public care needs to move beyond its current instrumental focus to articulate a broader ontological purpose, informed by what is required to promote children’s growth and flourishing. This depends upon the establishment of caring relationships enacted within the lifespaces shared by children and those caring for them. We explore some of the central features of caring in the lifespace and conclude that residential child care is best considered to be a practical/moral endeavour rather than the technical/rational one it has become. It requires morally active, reflexive practitioners and containing environments.