Whose benefactors? Whose beneficiaries? – negotiating help at the intersection between the family and the state

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Social work is characterized as a helping profession. Consequently, the nature and purposes of social work revolve around concepts of help and helping. In this article, I explore what happens when the extended family network and friends are brought together by child welfare services to make decisions to help a child. Based on analyses of a single videotaped family group conference, this article offers insights into the challenges and complexities families face when dealing with the mandated task to devise a plan that meets the child's needs. By examining sequences of interaction where friends and family members discuss future scenarios with some cast as beneficiaries and others as benefactors, I show how some of these complexities can be captured in terms of the relationship between benefactive stance and benefactive status. The complexities include ambiguities regarding the relationship between nominated future scenarios and the problem(s) they were designed to solve. Furthermore, participants dealt with uncertainties regarding who was more inclined towards specific future scenarios and thus understood to be the actual beneficiary. Additionally, the analysis shows that social identities ascribed to recipients when resolutions to problems were linked to family members' past shortcomings complicated the acknowledgement and acceptance of assistance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalChild & Family Social Work
Pages (from-to)1-18
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Feb 2024


  • social work and social conditions
  • Benefactors
  • Beneficiaries
  • Familierådslagning
  • Recruitment
  • child welfare
  • conversation analysis
  • familiepleje
  • family group conference
  • help offers
  • hjælp
  • institutional interaction


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