Bonnie Jensen's PhD defence
On Friday 07 May 2021, Bonnie Jensen defended her PhD titled: "Barndomshjem eller børnehjem? - Et kvalitativt studie af 38 børns oplevelser af at blive og være anbragt på døgninstitution i Grønland" ("Childhood home or orphanage? - A qualitative study of 38 children's experiences of staying and being placed in a 24-hour care centre in Greenland").
Briefly about Bonnie's PhD:
The purpose and focus of the PhD is to give a voice to Greenlandic children placed in 24-hour care centres. The question the PhD seeks to answer is: How do Greenlandic children experience being placed in a 24-hour care centre?
There are 22 24-hour care centres across the country, accommodating 329 children. This means that at any given time there is room for 2.39% of Greenlandic children to be placed in a 24-hour care centre. As there are children who leave a 24-hour care centre in the course of a year and new children who move in, the actual placement figure may be higher, when all 24-hour care centre places are used. In total, about 4.5 per cent of all Greenlandic children are placed outside the home - either in a 24-hour care centre or in foster care. These placement rates are significantly higher than the placement rates in comparable countries.
It is well documented that children in care fare worse than children who have not been in care - and that placement greatly increases the likelihood of negative life situations as an adult. The PhD therefore has considerable societal relevance.
No previous research has examined children's own experiences of being placed in Greenland from the perspective of children's lives. The PhD highlights aspects and facets of the placements that cannot be uncovered by quantitative research or statistics. The children's life worlds are shown through phenomenological conversations with children who have experienced the placements on their own bodies and in their own lives. The experiences are further illuminated through phenomenological narratives from former foster carers and relatives.
The primary empirical material consists of interviews with 38 children in 17 24-hour care centres in the country. The narratives in the PhD have been produced through semi-structured interviews and analyzed within a phenomenological and hermeneutic interpretive framework. There are many aspects of being placed, and it often turned out to be different experiences for the children. In relation to being placed outside the home, or moved between placements (including foster care), 26 out of 38 children (68.4%) did not feel that they had been consulted or involved in their own case. This in turn can lead to children experiencing low self-esteem, low self-confidence and powerlessness. In relation to being placed in the current institution, around half are happy, or at least satisfied, with the placement itself - while the other half would prefer to live elsewhere. It is primarily the lack of family that is the reason why children are not satisfied with living in institutions - but the educational performance of the staff also plays a major role.
The results of the PhD point to three main issues: Firstly, children usually do not know why they are placed, how long they will be placed, or how long they can stay where they live. Secondly, children express a wish for more committed staff in institutions. Thirdly, children miss their families very much, not least because they are usually placed far away from home and therefore only have the opportunity to see the family a few times a year.
Placements have major impacts on children and are a very intrusive measure for the child as well as for the rest of the family. The PhD's overall recommendation is therefore to involve the child in his or her own placement - to a much greater extent than is currently the case - both before, during and after the placement.
We congratulate Bonnie on her PhD defence.