Reasoning Processes in Child Protection Decision Making: Negotiating Moral Minefields and Risky Relationships
This paper investigates the reasoning processes of social workers in child protection social work as they make decisions. Within this interpretive process, they assign meaning to clients' behaviours in a context containing a multitude of competing discourses relating to the nature and cause of clients' problems. The study used a qualitative approach, specifically a critical incident framework. It asked workers to describe cases they felt ‘pleased with’ and explain the reasoning processes they used in those cases. It also asked clients their views of decisions made about them. This article draws on social constructionist theorising to describe and analyse the discourses used to frame the aims of practice and the causes of clients' problems. It found that workers valued family maintenance and sought to bolster this while managing potential risk. In the cases selected by workers, they constructed the causes of clients' problems in non-blaming but individualised ways, viewed clients as being capable of change and honest in their dealings with workers. It is proposed that these ways of viewing contributed to maintaining relationships with clients despite the challenges of balancing risk, care, control and power.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Rights Statement: Copyright © 2011, British Association of Social Workers
Keywords: best practice; child protection; social constructionism; social work practice; decision-making; judgement; ethics
Research Type: Journal Article
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