Sociology’s Brian Gran earns Fulbright award to research children’s rights in Iceland

Brian Gran’s scholarly passion centers on children’s rights around the globe. An associate professor of sociology with a secondary appointment in law, his most recent project involved reviewing dozens of treaties and other documents to assess countries’ efforts to protect children. Now, as the recipient of a Fulbright award to Reykjavik, Iceland, Gran will get a first-hand look at how some of these nations’ policies apply in practice.

“The School of Law of Reykjavik University is an attractive site to undertake the Fulbright experience,” Gran said. “Its research programs on European law, rights, and public and private social security intersect with the research I propose to undertake.”

While there, he intends to focus on two projects: a case study of the Ombudsman for Children in Iceland and a collaborative project with a Reykjavik University professor on how laws are used to designate public and private social responsibilities. In addition, Gran will teach a course at the university on “Law, Social Policy and Children’s Rights.”

These areas of research and teaching fit closely with his work at Case Western Reserve University. Here, he teaches courses such as “Sociology of Children’s Rights and Social Policy” and “Law and the Public-Private Dichotomy.” His also is developing the Children’s Rights Index, an international measure of children’s rights, as well as a parallel measure for the United States. Finally, he is completing a study of independent children’s rights institutions, such as children’s ombudspersons and children’s commissioners, and how their efforts advance children’s rights.

His most recent paper, “Rights and Roles of Family Engagement in Child Welfare:  An International Treaties Perspective on Families’ Rights, Parents’ Rights, and Children’s Rights,” appeared in a special issue of the journal Child Welfare.

Gran’s research for the paper involved an eight-country analysis of the practice of family-engagement conferences, which involve families, government officials and children in the decision-making process to protect children against abuse or neglect, and how widely international and geographic treaty rights are incorporated into the practice.

He then ranked countries in terms of how much support was available to children; Iceland ranked second highest out of the eight countries analyzed. (New Zealand was first, and the United States and France tied for third.)

Through his Fulbright studies, Gran can look closely at the support offered by Iceland’s institutions to its children. The funding “will provide opportunities to develop sophisticated understandings of how an independent children’s rights institution implements children’s rights in private settings,” he said.

Gran and his family will live in Reykjavik for the duration of the Fulbright award, January to May 2013. Though he has never traveled to Iceland before, Gran is excited to experience the culture with his loved ones.

“Such an experience will provide opportunities to form new professional relationships, to develop and lead a course and seminars for different learning styles, to conduct research and publish on issues of sociological and policy importance, and to provide my family and me with experiences that will change our lives in ways we will never forget,” he said.