From rights and protection to care and upbringing: a reflexive account of changing rationalities of residential child care
In this submission I use previously published works, my book Rethinking Residential Child Care and two articles ‘Reading Bauman for Social Work’ and ‘Care Ethics in Residential Child Care: A Different Voice’, to develop a critical account of changing rationalities of care in the context of residential child care. Much of my writing draws upon professional experience gained over 20 years of residential child care practice and I begin this account by justifying the use of this experience as the basis of professional and academic knowledge. I then go on to explicate some of the discursive influences that have fed into the way that residential child care is currently constituted. Specifically, I locate many current assumptions and practices within dominant neoliberal political systems and assumptions. This has led to the commodification, instrumentalisation and, within an increasingly regulated polity, the bureaucratisation of public care. Against this backdrop, public care is conceived of in narrow and abstract concerns around rights and protection. The concepts of care itself and of upbringing that ought to be at the heart of adult engagement with children are left, largely, unarticulated. I seek to address this gap by developing possible conceptualisations of care and upbringing. I conclude by arguing that residential child care and, indeed, much public care, is governed by the wrong rationalities, by economic and administrative priorities rather than caring and relational ones. Finally, I suggest some directions that future work might take.