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Emotional kinship care and neutral non‐kinship care — the struggle between discourses

Child & Family Social Work

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In this paper, social workers' ideas of kinship care and non‐kinship care as foster placement alternatives for vulnerable children are analysed and discussed. The study is based on group interviews with Swedish social workers, using a discourse analytic approach. The interviews took two vignettes of children who needed an immediate and long‐term placement because one of the parents had killed the other parent, as their point of departure. Domestic violence is a common social problem across countries, and controversies about placement alternatives become even more apparent when discussing lethal violence. The analysis revealed three main discourses: ‘emotional kinship care’, ‘neutral non‐kinship care’ and ‘a real family’. The emotional kinship care discourse also revealed two competing sub‐discourses: ‘emotions as glue that binds’ and ‘emotions as obscuring a child perspective’, displaying a struggle concerning the advantages and risks that social workers connected to kinship care. In this paper, the results and their implications for vulnerable children are discussed.