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Interventions framed through a behavioural lens, particularly ‘Nudge’, are gaining credence in US and UK policy circles, not least around healthcare. Key tenets of this ‘libertarian paternalist’ approach are discussed and related to sociological theory. The influential position of nudge begs sociological engagement, indeed its recognition of ‘choice architecture’ is partially congruent with sociological conceptions of structure-embedded agency. Though recognising the significance of norms, the analysis of nudge fails to appreciate their depth in terms of time, materiality and the socio-cultural. The potency and variable consequences of these social factors are emphasised through Bourdieu's concepts of habitus and field. This framework alongside various sociological approaches to risk and uncertainty are proposed as potentially fruitful paths of critical engagement.
During the 2008 federal campaign, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama placed comprehensive health care reform at the centre of his platform. In the light of the growing problems facing the US health care system, the time seemed ripe for another attempt to control health costs while expanding insurance coverage. Elected in the context of the deepest recession since World War II, President Obama nonetheless decided to reform the US health care system at the beginning of his presidency. Drawing on the historical institutionalist perspective, which stresses the effects of existing institutions and policy legacies on social policy development, this article analyzes health politics during the first fifteen months of the Obama administration before assessing the impact of the legislation enacted in March 2010. Although it does not radically break from the past, this legislation should bring about crucial changes to the US health care system.
Internationally, over the past two decades the theme of personalisation has driven significant reforms within health and social care services. In the Australian context, the principles of ‘entitlement based on need’ and ‘personalisation’ frame the proposed National Disability Long-Term Care and Support Scheme (LTCSS). In this article, we critically examine the interpretations and ambiguities of need and personalisation. We consider the administrative complexities of applying these principles in practice and the uncertainties about the roles of state and the market, and use individual case examples to illustrate areas of potential tension. Whether principles translate to deliver personalised services and avoid harmful trade-offs between access, equity and choice is the true test of social policy.
Intensive family intervention projects have become an increasingly prominent mechanism within anti-social behaviour and social policy programmes in the UK and are supported, in principle, by the new coalition government. They have also been the subject of considerable academic controversy within the evaluative and critical literature. This article attempts to inform continuing debates about the purpose and effects of these projects by conceptualising the contexts within which interactions between projects and families occur; classifying the component aspects of roles and support provided; and presenting a three-part typology of potential outcomes from project interventions.
This article explores the intention and effects of New Labour's ‘conditional’ welfare-to-work strategy. Conditionality has been the subject of substantive debate, with New Labour distinguishing its own contractualist welfare reforms from alternative strategies, often associated with ‘punitive’ US workfare. This article assesses whether New Labour's attempt to fashion what is described as ‘reciprocal responsibility’ in welfare arrangements avoided the commonly cited by-products of workfare. To achieve this, evidence is presented from the British Social Attitudes series, which shows a profound hardening of attitudes towards the unemployed. In light of these findings, the evidence supports arguments about the adverse effects that welfare contractualism can have for wider social relations.
Themed Section on Waiting for a Better World: Critical and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Intercountry Adoption
Consider a social phenomenon which for over sixty years has seen the increasingly systematic and organised (but involuntary) expatriation, migration and resettlement of around one million children around the globe (Selman, 2012). In most cases, this expatriation entails the complete severance of ties with home countries, communities and families of origin; the provision of new families and citizenship; a legal change of identity that may include the issuing of new birth certificates; and, for many, a life among people from whom they remain visibly different just as they remain culturally and linguistically different from the communities in which they were born but from whom they are removed at an early age.
This article examines the latest trends in intercountry adoption worldwide, based on data from twenty-three receiving countries. Trends in the number of children sent by states of origin are based on their returns to the Hague Special Commission or on estimates derived from country data provided by the receiving states. The analysis concentrates on the period from 2004 to 2010 when estimated annual global numbers declined from 45,000 to 29,000, fewer than those recorded in 1998. The article will also look at changes in the age – and other characteristics – of children sent. Discussion centres on changes in sending countries, exploring the declines in China, Russia and Guatemala, the rise in adoptions from Haiti after the earthquake of 2010 and the emergence of Africa – and in particular Ethiopia – as a significant source of children for adoption. The article concludes with a consideration of the implications of a continuing high demand from childless couples in developed countries on the intercountry adoption ‘market’; and the prediction of David Smolin that, unless truly reformed, intercountry adoption will eventually be abolished and labeled as a ‘neo-colonial mistake’.
Discomfort about the notion of adoption as facilitating a market in children has been one of the major motivations for regulation and control, not only for intercountry adoption but throughout the history of in country adoption as well. This paper explores the nature of the market in Australia, beginning in the decades before legalisation but looking also for continuities in the ways in which in country and later intercountry adoptions have been debated. Drawing on an analysis of advertisements from major metropolitan and regional newspapers it argues that benevolence always exists in an uneasy alliance with assumptions about the right to a child, creating a ‘shopping list’ of desired characteristics which the market has rarely been able to satisfy.
Relatively little work on adoption focuses on the role of social workers. This article gives an account of the conflict between social workers and prospective adoptive parents which developed in Australia in the 1970s, taking as a case study the conflicting roles of adoptive parent advocates and professional social workers within the Standing Committee on Adoption in the Australian state of Victoria. Its overarching concern lies with the historical attitudes of the social work profession towards adoption, both domestic and intercountry, as these have changed from an embrace of both adoption and adoptive parents to mutual alienation. It concludes that the inclusive practice of radical social work could only briefly contain contesting client groups.
Disasters are prevalent with devastating effects on vulnerable populations that include the elderly, disabled, women and children. Historical responses to vulnerable children and families post-disaster raise questions concerning further harms to children rescued by adoption in the aftermath of devastation. This article offers critical and historical perspectives on child removal for adoption in the context of disaster and the psychosocial care of children affected by disaster. It brings into question whether removal, especially permanent removal for adoption, is in their interests. This article concludes that efforts are needed by the international community to ensure that past abuses do not recur.
Drawing on select examples of adoption policy, this article considers key assumptions in discourse about ‘the best interests of the child’. The central argument is that the life-long impact of adoption needs to be recognised so that the long-term interests of adoptees are met, and not only when they are children. Based on doctoral research into the experiences of adult Korean adoptees in the United States and Australia, this article argues that currently post-adoption services are geared to adoptive parents and the adoptee-as-child and do not adequately address the needs of adoptees beyond childhood. Accurate and accessible information is important for adoptees as they try to understand their past and make sense of their identities.
Dominant social norms relating to families shape the lives of all people. This can have negative effects upon non-traditional families. This is especially the case in terms of adoption, where a focus solely on the adoptive family can often result in the ‘disappearance’ of the birth family. This paper explores the location of birth families in relation to adoptive families by examining a sample of children's storybooks aimed at adoptive children living with lesbian or gay parents as but one example of how policy makers may come to identify dominant cultural norms that circulate about birth families in the context of intercountry adoption. A number of key tropes are identified across these books, namely the ghostly presence of birth families, and the representation of birth parents as deviant (thus warranting the removal of their children).
This review surveys sociological literature on intercountry adoption from 1997 to 2010. The analysis finds a preponderance of literature from the United States, reflecting its place as a major receiving country, and a focus on adoption experience organised by reference to the adoption triad: adoptive parents, adoptees, birth families. Reflecting the power imbalances in intercountry adoption, the voices and views of adoptive parents dominate the literature. There is an emerging literature generated by researchers who are intercountry adoptees, while birth families remain almost invisible in this literature. A further gap identified by this review is work which examines intercountry adoption as a global social practice and work which critically examines policy.
In addition to the literature surveyed in the review article and the references provided by each of the authors, further sources are provided here. This selection might appear idiosyncratic for international readers given its Australian focus but it has been made because the sources (not likely to be widely known outside Australia) provide current, rich and unique ethnographic data on the complex politics of intercountry adoption in a receiving country and of past practices in domestic adoption, both of which have implications for current policy and practice.