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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

At Stake-HOLDing Integration and containment in Non-profit organizations

We aim in this paper to explore some importance of the notion of containment and primary task in residential homes for children. We envisage in this paper the clarification of certain conflicts between the residential children's homes, its client's and stakeholders, in order to increase the understanding the dynamics present in this organizations. In these regard, the notion of primary task and social defence systems will be central. We will draw on data resulting of several consultations to the staff and managers of residential childcare homes located in Portugal, which will be presented as vignettes. It was during the course of these consultations, that several general trends connected with the relation between these organisations with its client's and stakeholders appeared. We will argue throughout the paper that faced with anxiety stirring circumstances, such as the event of child sexual abuse or blunt aggressiveness, two extreme dynamics may be present: the organisations lose sight of the stakeholder's views or the organisation forgets its client's. The context of residential childcare in Portugal, and its constant legal changes, will also be examined as way of clarifying the present dynamics and the impact on these institutions of these major external changes.