First findings from phase one of the Child Welfare Decision-Making Variability Project: Research briefing paper.
Keddell, Emily; Hyslop, Ian
Decision variability,that is,different decision outcomes when levels of harm are similar is a problem common to many child protection systems. The causes are many and varied: the expectation of the child protection system to respond to diverse family problems; the differing beliefs, values and worldviews of practitioners; differences in institutional cultures, sites, processes and resources; demographic inequalities; and conflicting discourses in the policy environment (Baumann et al., 2011; Keddell, 2014). This small (n = 67) exploratory mixed methods study examines if decision variability exists in Aotearoa New Zealand, and why this occurs. At the individual level, the perceptions of practitioners inform what decisions should be made in relation to specific children. This study found that there was a wide range of perceptions of levels of risk, safety, and future harm amongst frontline child welfare (both CYF and NGO) practitioners when responding to the same case vignette. These diverse perspectives were reflected in marked differences in the types of decisions recommended, and how close CYF respondents were to forming a belief that children are in need of care and protection. Problem explanations revolved around factors relating to the family socio economic circumstances, domestic violence, the children’s behaviour and parenting capacity. Despite broad similarities in problem explanations, diverse perceptions of risk remained.
Series: Research briefing
Series number: 1
Research Type: Project Report
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