Challenges and Responses to the Vulnerability of Families in a Preschool Context
Problems in vulnerable families are multilayered and include the intersection of physical, psychosocial and other forms of distress. The multidimensional nature of the problems of these families is closely linked to the fact that there are many institutions in the field of education, social welfare, health care and others, in which treatment and support are not satisfactory or adapted to their needs. The article presents the partial results of a large-scale qualitative research study, results that refer to the position of vulnerable families in the context of preschool education. The study examined how vulnerability is experienced by parents of preschool children, how the expert workers in the preschools involved in the study responded to the parents’ vulnerability, and how they cooperated with experts from other services outside the preschool. A qualitative research method was used in the study. Data was collected partly through semi-structured interviews with various expert workers employed in two preschools, as well as with the parents of children in the preschools; the interviews were conducted individually and in focus groups. Using thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006), we have identified four representative themes: amongst parents, the two recurring themes can be subsumed under the headings “from door to door” and “adaptation/flexibility”, and amongst experts, under the headings “powerlessness/incompetence/lack of information” and “power/innovation/sensitivity”. The study finds that the ability to effectively contend with vulnerability presumes a reconceptualisation of the attitude of institutional preschool education towards the family, including a change in the professional role of preschool teachers.
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