Hestia – A comparative multi-site study

Policies and responses with regard to child abuse and neglect in England, Germany and the Netherlands.
The research project, called Hestia after the Greek goddess of home and family, aims to discover the nature and impact of variations in child protection systems through a comparison of three different welfare states. We will compare:

  1. the ways child protection measures are negotiated, legitimized and perceived
  2. their impact on children
  3. the relationship between national policy, thresholds for intervention and social justice
  4. the rhetoric in child protection policy and practice, locating this within the wider child welfare policy framework in each country

Through this comparative analysis, Hestia research project will generate new insights into child protection policy and practice and so have a significant impact on future developments in child welfare in Europe.

What do we want to know with HESTIA?

Child protection has become an important aspect of child welfare policy in most European countries. Its heightened importance is the result of a growing recognition of children’s rights, rising expectations about standards of parental care and responsibility, and growing concern about the social exclusions of vulnerable and disadvantaged children. However, although many families are drawn into the child protection system there has been very little comparative research on this aspect of European welfare states.

Therefore our main research question is the following: How does child protection policy and practice vary between Western European countries and what is the impact of these variations on children and families?

To answer this key question, Hestia will also address the following questions:

  1. How far does variation in policies and priorities reflect diversity in the social construction of abuse and neglect between countries?
  2. How do the characteristics of children and families investigated for abuse vary between apparently similar Western European countries, as a result of variations in policy and priorities?
  3. How does service provision vary between countries? Are variations in policy and service provision associated with variation in outcomes for children (e.g., re-abuse or removal from home)?
  4. To what extent do services in each country work with parents on a voluntary basis in order to avoid compulsory state intervention?
  5. What broader trends in the development of European welfare states do these variations reflect and which implications do they bring about?

So how are we planning to answer all these questions?

Hestia is structured into three studies including a comparative analysis of child protection policy and two empirical studies of child protection practice. Findings from the policy analysis will underpin the empirical phase, which will compare: a) state responses to child maltreatment notifications, and b) parent perspectives on professional intervention in different welfare states.

  1. state responses to child maltreatment notifications
  2. parent perspectives on professional intervention in different welfare states

Click here for more information on the building blocks of our project.

Why is HESTIA significant?

Hestia will help to develop the knowledge base that policy makers and professionals in child welfare systems draw on. By advancing scientific understanding of how, why and in what circumstances abused and neglected children are identified and responded to in different countries, this study will be useful both to professionals from a range of agencies and to national and local policy-makers. It will therefore make an important contribution to the development of European child welfare systems. Hestia will also benefit colleagues in the academic community, as it will contribute to theoretical and methodological advances in research in social policy and social work. Click here to check out the outcomes of Hestia.

NORFACE Programme Welfare State Futures

Hestia is funded by the European NORFACE Programme ‘Welfare State Futures’ (https://welfarestatefutures.org/). This programme offers an approach from a variety of  perspectives and disciplines, enables and encourages multi-disciplinarity and offers a fruitful topic for a European approach, with opportunities for comparison. The Welfare State Futures programme aims to advance globally excellent theoretical and methodological disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and comparative research on Welfare State Futures which builds synergetically on a pan-European basis; to motivate and support excellence and capacity building for research on welfare state futures on a cross-national basis throughout the NORFACE countries; and to develop understanding and promote research-based knowledge and insight into Welfare State Futures for issues of societal, practical and policy relevance, with theoretical foundations but worked on jointly with relevant users and experts.