Famiglie fragili

Translated title of the contribution: [Autom. eng. transl.] Fragile families

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


OBJECT Nowadays, the area of family frailty is rapidly expanding, specifically for families with underage children. This paper presents the results of a research-assessment concerning good practices aiming at tackling three different types of frail families: 1) families with children in care or at risk to be sent out of home; 2) families with separated / divorced parents; and 3) migrant families. All the practices under study are implemented through partnerships between public and third sector, and represent services of excellence as they empower the family’s capability to generate social capital. HYPOTHESIS A broad examination of the international literature shows that the response to the needs of the frail families is more effective when families themselves play an active role in the intervention. However, such kind of services are still few. Accordingly, it is very important to identify and analyse innovative solutions, which adopt a relational and family perspective. The research was carried out within the relational sociological perspective, according to which a good practice has to be assessed by considering four areas: 1) efficiency, meant as coherence and internal sustainability, structural adequacy, and expertise of the professionals involved; 2) effectiveness, as achievement of the goals and resolution of the problem; 3) compliance with a relational model of intervention, which goes beyond the excess of welfarism (substitutive care model); 4) capability of increasing the social capital of the users and their family networks. METHODS The research was carried out in two regions of Northern Italy (Lombardia and Piemonte), where six services went under close analysis (case study). These were: 1) family-to-family foster care; 2) self-help groups involving families with children in care or at risk to be sent out of home; 3) and 4) support groups for children of divorce (two cases); 5) peer education for Maghrebi women; 6) foreign foster families within an inter-religious community. The choice of the case studies was made after a preliminary survey (quantitative questionnaire) of the existing services for the three types of frail families in the two Northern regions. Such choice was also driven by the rationale of having two services for each type of family frailty. As for methods, qualitative interviews were realized with project managers, professional workers and users. FINDINGS The six case studies – even if extremely different from each other – show that family relations, when they are adequately promoted and supported, can be a facilitation and a resource during the intervention, and not only an obstacle which has to be neutralized and from which family members (particularly children) have to be protected. In conclusion, while family frailty is growing and affecting marital relations’ stability, parental educational skills, as well as migrant families, the research highlighted the resilience of the family relation, which looks like an irreplaceable resource. The research illustrated inter-family solidarity through a variety of significant cases: “normal” families helping out weak families, frail families sorting themselves out or supporting other vulnerable families; separated parents who give their children the chance to take part in self-help groups in order to overcome their isolation; foreign families who, instead of being recipients of help, become the fulcrum of the helping process for other foreign people. All these cases show that the social capital made of family relations represents a resource which cannot be replaced by substitutive interventions, merely focused on the frailty and the weakness of the family.
Translated title of the contribution[Autom. eng. transl.] Fragile families
Original languageItalian
Title of host publicationLa famiglia in Italia. Sfide sociali e innovazioni nei servizi. Nuove best practices nei servizi alle famiglie - Vol. II
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Vulnerable families
  • good practices
  • relational quality
  • relational sociology


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