A promising way forward.

Author:Harris, Helen
Position:'Working with Children in Care: European Perspectives' - Book review

Working with Children in Care: European perspectives Pat Petrie, Janet Boddy, Claire Cameron, Valerie Wigfall and Antonia Simon Open University Press 2006 186 pages 21.99 [pounds sterling]

The publication of this book is extremely timely. It precedes the recent UNICEF report which places the well-being of children in the UK bottom against 20 other European countries (UNICEF, 2007). Given that children in care are significantly more disadvantaged than most others in the UK, this book examines a way of improving policy and practice that is informed by comparative research into child care approaches across Europe.

Working with Children in Care has three key aims. First, in Part 1, it introduces the concept of pedagogy, which has been gaining attention in the UK over the last ten years. The authors define this as 'education in its broadest sense' and social pedagogy as 'the work of services that are socially provided'. In essence, this is an approach to child care provision based on principles such as: a focus on the child as a whole person; the practitioner seeing themselves as being in a relationship with the child; and an emphasis on team work between practitioners, community members and parents in 'bringing up' the child. This first part is largely informed by a qualitative study investigating residential policy across five other European countries: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Material is presented on the differing policies of each country.

Part 2 addresses the second aim of the book, which is to compare residential care provision in England with that of the aforementioned countries. This section draws on a separate study that used both qualitative and quantitative methods. Chapters explore workforce issues, such as recruitment and retention, the different values that influence procedures in residential homes, how aspects of children's lives like schooling and family relate to policy and practice, and how the children view their care experience.

The final aim concerns the potential benefits of extending pedagogy into child care in the UK. Part 3 presents a strong argument (supported by the preceding chapters) for introducing this approach into residential child care in the UK. While this section could...

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