‘Helping me find my own way’: sexually exploited young people’s involvement in decision-making about their care
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AbstractThis thesis explores the role and relevance of the concepts of participation and service user involvement for work with sexually exploited children and young people. The central research questions are: how do young people at risk of, or affected by sexual exploitation, experience their rights to involvement in decision-making processes about their care? What is the meaning and value of the concept of participation from service users’ own perspectives? And what are the gains of involving these young people in decision-making processes about their care? The research involved in-depth qualitative interviews with twenty young service users and ten practitioners. Three theoretical frameworks underpin the study; a constructivist approach to childhood; sociological approaches to agency, and discourses of children’s participation rights. The analysis of data was informed by both narrative and grounded theory approaches. The thesis argues that young people’s perspectives on professional welfare, though rarely recorded or allowed to inform policy and best practice, shed new insight onto the efficacy and limitations of existing child protection practice with adolescents at risk of sexual exploitation. Consideration is given to how young people experience and respond to services, including their decisions about disengaging from or circumventing professional support. The thesis concludes that these demonstrations of agency and power, though often interpreted as deviant, are essentially rational and often protective. Through this lens young people’s agency is recognised as a resource rather than a problem. The thesis concludes by arguing that the ability of support services to protect young people affected by sexual exploitation is contingent on the degree to which they involve young people in decision-making about their care. Rather than standing in opposition to paternalistic approaches to protection, the narratives suggest that participation and empowerment are necessary conditions of a protective service, especially for those considered most marginalized or vulnerable.
CitationWarrington, C.L. (2013) '‘Helping me find my own way’: sexually exploited young people’s involvement in decision-making about their care'. Professional Doctorate thesis. University of Bedfordshire.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted to the University of Bedfordshire, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Professional Doctorate
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