Making Family with Public / Private Boundaries – Parallel Session 3 – Thursday, September 23rd – 13:45

The Making of the Family in Social Work at the Beginning of the 20th Century – Köngeter (St. Gallen/SUI)

Collaborative Instrumentalization Of Family Life: How new learning agendas disrupt care chains in the danish welfare state – Westerling/Juhl (Roskilde/DEN)

Towards a Re-familialization of Social Security and Inclusion? A critical view on mentoring programs for migrants and youth – Raithelhuber (Salzburg/AUT)

Making and Doing Society by Making Family Networks: Academia and policy on social cohesion in child and family social work – Dierckx/Vandenbroeck (Ghent/BEL)


The Making of the Family in Social Work at the Beginning of the 20th Century – Köngeter, Stefan (St. Gallen/SUI)

The social developments of the 19th century, namely industrialization, urbanization and migration, changed the discourse over the meaning of the family. As J. Donzelot (1979) already pointed out in the 1970s, the social sector, and here in particularly social work, emerged around a problematization of the (working-class) family. The Family is no longer a private issue but becomes a public concern as it is seen as the core of the community and the society. The boundary between public and private gets blurred by establishing (welfare) institutions and interventions as well as social professions dealing with the family. One can observe these developments in the discourse over the family in different countries of the industrializing world. In Germany for example the large scale family studies launched by Alice Salomon and colleagues (1930) within the “Deutsche Akademie für soziale und pädagogische Frauenarbeit” are an example for this. The proceedings of the National Conferences of Charities and Correction (later “of Social Work) in the USA provide also rich insights how the family is constructed in the emerging social work discourse.

This paper provides a short overview over the transatlantic discourse on the family in social work at the beginning of the 20th century and will focus on the discourse on the family in the USA which can be investigated in the above-mentioned conference proceedings. The analysis of these proceedings show that the family lies on the intersection of several other alleged social problems, such as education of the poor, the nation as a community, migration and race, labor and gender. The paper will carve out how the boundary of the family between public and private got under scrutiny by social work as the family is seen as the starting point of these different but interconnected social problems.


Donzelot, J. (1979). The policing of families. New York: Pantheon Books. Salomon, A., Baum, M., & Niemeyer, A. (1930). Das Familienleben in der Gegenwart: 182 Familienmonographien. Berlin: Herbig.

Collaborative Instrumentalization Of Family Life: How new learning agendas disrupt care chains in the danish welfare state – Westerling, Allan / Juhl, Pernille (Roskilde/DEN)

This paper argues that the latest Danish Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Act has direct implications for the way parents and professionals collaborate about children. The Act introduces a learning agenda that installs an asymmetrical distribution of tasks, which, we argue, may subsequently causes asymmetrical relations between parents and professionals. This asymmetry poses a threat to the shared care arrangement, which has historically characterized the welfare states of Scandinavia. We analyze how the new conditions for collaboration between parents and professionals, stipulated in the recent ECEC Act, are translated and transformed into local polices and everyday practices. In addition to reporting ethnographic research done in two ECEC centers, we analyze how recent policy shifts have implications for the daily collaboration between parents and professionals. We show how the learning agenda marginalizes parents’ perspectives in the collaboration between families and ECEC centers. Our discussion of the consequences emphasizes that possibilities for collaborating on shared care is left unused and that this may contribute to an instrumentalization of familial relations.

Towards a Re-familialization of Social Security and Inclusion? A critical view on mentoring programs for migrants and youth – Raithelhuber, Eberhard (Salzburg/AUT)

In recent years, mentoring and befriending programs have expanded rapidly in Europe and beyond, partic-ularly for immigrant populations and marginalized youth. Commonly, organisations “match” two people, previously strangers, to form a new, but unequal relationship with regular face-to face contact. Usually, the aim is to facilitate the “integration” of newcomers into the social systems. Related schemes are organized by a spectrum of actors, e.g. civic associations, service providers and state agencies. Often they count on the engagement of local, adult volunteers.

Studies show that these mentors and their families have to deal with the exclusionary nature of national welfare states to a considerable extent. In particular, this is the case if the status of the mentee is (made) precarious or disadvantaged. Thus, it can be said that in this context “private” mentor-mentee connections do not only fulfil social support functions, e.g. with regard to life course transitions or coping with everyday problems. They can also turn into “personal relationships” and develop family-like qualities. Further, men-toring relationships can become a key asset for negotiating belonging and achieving social protection. Re-sults from our in-depth case study on a program for “unaccompanied refugee minors” in Austria suggest that this is the case if the mentor and the mentee perceive each other as “extended family”.

Up to now and on an international level, research has paid scant attention to the functioning of initiatives organizing personal relationships for immigrant populations and marginalized youth, such as mentoring schemes. Moreover, we know little about how related actors process, negotiate, employ, enact, distribute and materialize family-related images, e.g. when recruiting, training and matching mentors and mentees, or in the context of providing funds for programs or political backing. Likewise, a discussion on mentorship for newcomers and youth within the multi-level governance and political economy of welfare states is largely lacking. Finally, disciplinary and professional debate in education and social work has sidelined the growing significance of related services and initiatives, despite the fact that community- and school-based mentoring is used as a means of social intervention. This lack of critical research is remarkable, given that mentoring can partly be understood as an institutionalization of personal or family-like relations.

Against this backdrop, this presentation wants to contribute to a discussion on the role and establishment of mentoring programs and relationships in the context of welfare and migration policies. Thus, it needs to be ask if and how far related schemes entail, count on, evoke, trigger and employ notions and practices of “family”, and if and how this potentially reshapes the relation of “the family” and “the welfare state” in novel ways, e.g. towards a re-familialization of social security and inclusion. To do so, the paper takes stock of related needs for professional debate, conceptual development and empirical research. It does so by connecting the allegedly “private” space of family and personal relationships to the “public” issues of governance in welfare and migration. Finally, proposals on how to advance knowledge will be made.

Making and Doing Society by Making Family Networks: Academia and policy on social cohesion in child and family social work – Dierckx, Melissa / Vandenbroeck, Michel (Ghent/BEL)

Social cohesion has received momentum in research and policy in response to a rapidly changing society. Restoring social cohesion became a priority on the (European) political agenda as a result of societal developments, such as globalization and migration that have led to an increasing diversity and heterogeneity. Social work practices have been placed high on the European agenda to promote social cohesion. A particular field framed to promote social cohesion are child and family services where children are depicted as potential ‘brokers of relations’ meaning that in the creation of networks, community building and parenting, children can be facilitators. Despite the joined academic and political attention for social cohesion, it appears that if there is one thing we agree on, it is that there is no agreement on what social cohesion is. This leads to the paradoxical situation in which child and family services are characterized as ideal to foster social cohesion while there is little research on what this may mean. The question then is how conceptualizations in child and family social work literature relate to recent conceptualizations of social cohesion (RQ1), How policy-makers conceptualizesocial cohesion in reaction to the family policies (RQ2) and to what social cohesion should lead (RQ3). Using a multi-method design, combining a systematic narrative literature review (N=76) with thematic analysis of policy documents (N=44) and semi-structured interviews with policy makers (N=14) as they are key actors in the policy making process as well as in the coordination and implementation of policy in child and family social work practices. Our study suggests that social cohesion is overshadowed by a conceptualization of social cohesion as social capital that should lead to an inclusive society with shared norms and values. Yet, the very concept of “shared norms and values” is highly disputed. Moreover, the aim to achieve an inclusive society by promoting social cohesion paradoxically seems contingent with the introduction of exclusive measures targeting specific groups of families and reinforcing the individual responsibilities of families. We argue that a narrow conceptualisation of social cohesion as a function of child and family social work hinders taking into account the growing diversity and – in so doing – child and family social work may miss out on an important contemporary social challenge.