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Inquiries into child abuse and neglect in institutions and foster homes

a comparative perspective on the international history of children in out-of-home care (Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research 2011-2014)

Since the 1990s, the abuse and neglect of children in out-of-home-care has been reviewed by inquiries and truth commissions in several countries. This project compares the reports from inquiries carried out in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Norway, Iceland, Britain, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany.  Both state and regional commissions have interviewed and set up hearings with people that claim to have been subjected to abuse and neglect whilst in care. Irrespective of country of origin, the informants have told similar stories about physical violence, emotional violation, sexual abuse, exploitation, and neglect, all of which occurred for the better part of the 20th century.

The similarity amongst the testimonies is interesting since the countries that have conducted such inquiries represent different contexts of welfare policies. They have organized the care of orphaned, neglected, and abused children in different ways. They also have different histories of colonial heritage, religious influences and so forth. The background and premises for these inquiries have varied as well. This, in turn, has influenced how abuse and neglect have been explained in the inquiry reports. Even though the inquiries and truth commissions differ from one another in many respects, it is important to note that they have also been inspired by each other. This means that inquiries that have investigated different contexts may have departed from similar starting points and applied similar methods. The project aims to investigate 1) how methods and starting points influence which memories of abuse and neglect that are stressed and how this in turn affects how abuse and neglect is explained in the inquiry reports 2) which stories of abuse that seems to reoccur irrespective of context or methodological approach.

The project contributes to the discussion of so-called historical truth commissions, and aims to compile knowledge of the vulnerability of children in out-of-home care.


Project duration: 2011-2014

Funder: Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research

Contact person:
Johanna Sköld
+46 13 28 29 10

Bengt Sandin
+46 13 28 29 04


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Last updated: Fri Nov 14 13:36:37 CET 2014