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Child with parents

New insight into parental empowerment in child and family services

The doctoral dissertation of Jenni Kerppola, MHSc, explores both professionals’ and LGBTQ parents’ views on parental empowerment in Finnish child and family services.

Parental empowerment in children’s everyday life is crucial from the perspective of family functionality. According to previous research knowledge, there are shortcomings in supporting parental empowerment. The aim of Kerppola’s PhD study was to examine how parental empowerment is supported in Finnish child and family services, as well as how collaborative working practices and empowerment in management are related to the support of parental empowerment from the viewpoint of professionals. A further aim was to describe parental empowerment and related supportive factors from the viewpoint of lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) parents.

The study included three data sets. The inquiries were gathered from professionals working in substance abuse services and from employees working in health care, social welfare, and education settings. The interview data were collected from LGBTQ parents with experience of using maternity and child clinic services. Quantitative data were analyzed using statistical methods and qualitative data by inductive content analysis.

The support of parental empowerment was associated with cooperative working practices and empowerment in management. Parental empowerment was supported most within the families’ everyday life and least within the service system. LGBTQ parents defined empowerment as being visible. Respectful, gender-neutral communication and being treated as a parent irrespective of legal ties to their child was a key element supporting parental empowerment.

New knowledge was revealed about parental empowerment in the context of substance abuse and child and family services. In the future, attention should be paid to the management and organizational boundaries. Supporting LGBTQ parents’ empowerment requires more research and education about the particular needs of parents.

The doctoral dissertation on Jenni Kerppola, Master of Health Sciences, entitled Parental empowerment in child and family services, will be examined at the Faculty of Health Sciences. The Opponent in the public examination will be Docent Hanna-Leena Melender of the University of Oulu, and the Custos will be Professor Emerita Anna-Maija Pietilä of the University of Eastern Finland. The public examination will be held in Finnish on 20 August 2021 starting at 12 noon.

Photo available for download (Photo: Tommi Joutjärvi)

Public examination online