History of the Present Child Protection and Welfare Social Work in Ireland

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This book is the first detailed history of child protection and welfare social work practice in the Republic of Ireland, providing a comprehensive and in-depth account of the development of social work within the child protection and welfare system in the Republic of Ireland. Drawing on a broad range of archival sources, the book illuminates the complex and often contradictory nature of child welfare practices over the period 1862-1991. The archival data provided in the book should provide an excellent starting point for persons interested in furthering the study of the nature of child welfare and/or social work in the Republic of Ireland.

The book applies a methodology of a history of the present in a rigorous manner, drawing from Foucault’s conceptualizations of archaeology, genealogy, and discourse. The book attempts to deconstruct and reconstruct the theorization of social work in ‘the social’ (Foucault, 1977; Donzelot, 1980, Parton, 1991) within the context of Irish social work. It is likely that both the methodological and theoretical aspects of this book, applied in such a grounded way, will be of great interest to a broad audience of social scientists and historians.


“Given society’s current preoccupation with self examination over concerns with ‘social’ matters such as styles of government, political corruption, declining family and societal values, crime rates, past and recent abuse and the state of things generally, this book is particularly timely. The promulgation of information to which we are exposed, from so many different global sources can cause us to question which ‘truth’ we are being offered, and indeed, whether one truth has more credibility than another. This book grasps that concern and in a clear and transparent fashion challenges taken for granted assumptions about how governance operating in various sectors has developed. It focuses on a profession that occupies a sensitive space between the state and families and is frequently conceived as the conscience of civil society that is child protection social work. While it is concerned with the development of this profession in the Republic of Ireland, the ideas that emerge from this book could certainly transcend national, even professional boundaries and could be applied in a number of areas. The book should attract a readership from academics and policy makers in child welfare and related fields. The large body of students taking courses in child care and social work in the universities and other third level institutions should also find interest in it…..this is a work of high quality that makes a considerable contribution to the knowledge base in this area.” – Dr. Helen Buckley, University of Dublin

“…..this book,….provides a fresh and innovative contribution to the analysis and theorization of social work in Ireland. Skehill’s critical application of a Foucauldian approach to the location of the social work profession within expanding notions of the ‘social’ in the 19th and 20th century Ireland represents a major advance in the field…..Overall then, this book offers a well-argued thesis, a clear and reflexive application of Foucauldian approach, and sets the basis for a paradigmatic shift in debates about social work in Ireland.” – Professor Alastiar Christie, University College Cork

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
List of Abbreviations
1. What is the current position and nature of social work within the child protection and welfare system in the Republic of Ireland?
2. What is a history of the present and how does one apply it?
3. Review of existing histories of child protection and welfare social work in Ireland: 1970-1991
4. Development of social work within the statutory child welfare services from 1970-1991: Raising questions
5. Philanthropy and social work in Ireland: The emergence of professional social work as a regime of truth: 1889-1970
6. Space for the emergence of social workers as psy experts in child care: 1862-1945
7. Changing child welfare discourses: 1945-1970
8. Discussion and conclusion
Official publications and reports

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