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On the margin: Residential child care in Scotland and Finland

Francis, J. and Kendrick, A. and Poso, T. (2007) On the margin: Residential child care in Scotland and Finland. European Journal of Social Work, 10 (3). pp. 337-352. ISSN 1468-2664

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Abstract

Situated on the margins of Europe, Scotland and Finland are small countries which share similar demographic and economic profiles. In many European countries, residential child care can also be considered to be 'on the margin' of child care provision; there is ambivalence about residential care and a view that it should be used as a last resort. This paper examines systems and practices of residential care in Scotland and Finland, locating these in the context of wider child welfare policy in both countries. The underpinning principles of child welfare provision in both countries are similar - based on children's rights and primarily family-focused. In both countries there are also similar concerns about the fragmentation of child care provision and the cost of residential services. However, there are also important differences relating to child welfare provision and the use of residential care. In Finland, overall numbers of children in residential care are much greater than in Scotland; the age profile of these children and young people is very different; and the two countries vary markedly in the use of secure accommodation and custody. This comparative analysis suggests new ways of understanding the similarities and difference in the use of residential care in the two countries. It highlights the continuing challenge to develop residential care as a positive and integral part of a continuum of care services.