Operationalising the Capability Approach for Child and Youth Care: Results of an International Research Project

Babic, Bernhard, Gunter Graf, and Oscar Germes Castro (2010). "Operationalising the Capability Approach for Child and Youth Care: Results of an International Research Project" Paper presented at the 7th annual conference of the HDCA, 21-23 September 2010, Amman, Jordan.

Operationalising the Capability Approach (CA) for alternative child and youth care is the task of the international research project “Approaching Capabilities with Children in Care”. It was carried out by SOS Children’s Villages International and the International Research Centre Salzburg (IFZ). The CA was in this context understood as “a broad normative framework for the evaluation of individual well-being and social arrangements, the design of policies and proposals about social change in society” (Robeyns 2003, 5). As such it needs careful empirical adaption before it can be applied to a specific field (see Babic, Germes Castro, Graf 2009; Babic forthcoming). This is according to Schokkaert last but not least necessary because “the translation of (...) abstract capabilities in implementable terms will depend on the specific social, cultural and economic context” (2008, 16). As a consequence, we conducted our own, mainly qualitative field studies to take all these aspects adequately into account instead of limiting ourselves to applying already existing lists of capabilities. In this context we were additionally following Sen (1999; 2004), and Alkire (2002), who suggest to involve those who are primarily affected by certain programmes in the definition of valuable capabilities that should be realised by according actions. Therefore we asked within qualitative interviews and focus groups children, youths, their caregivers, their parents (if available) and other relevant adult persons (e.g. school teachers) what kind of life should the young people placed in different forms of alternative care (provided by SOS Children’s Villages as well as by other organisations) be able to lead later on. These investigations were conducted in cooperation with our national associations as well as with local external scientists and accompanied by national advisory boards on four different locations in Nicaragua and Namibia. The field studies, which started in October 2009, were completed in February and March 2010. Although the analysis of the data is still work in progress, at first glance the results are very promising. Amongst others they confirm impressively that children can be involved successfully into the definition of valuable capabilities and that they are not generally “not mature enough to make decisions by themselves” as Saito (2003) assumes. Therefore we are not only able to report about the capabilities valued by the respondents but also about relevant findings concerning the operationalisation of the CA for alternative child and youth care.
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