This month’s research bulletin includes new articles and reports about foster and kinship care, the needs of young parents in care, public perceptions of child protection work, intimate partner violence, and the use of child welfare data systems.
- The well being of foster and kin carers: A comparative study
- Practitioner and foster carer perceptions of the support needs of young parents in and exiting out-of-home care: A systematic review
- Datafied child welfare services: unpacking politics, economics and power
- Are child protection workers and judges in alignment with citizens when considering interventions into a family?
- Professional Knowledge on Violence in Close Relationship in Swedish Social Services
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1. The well being of foster and kin carers: A comparative study (2020)
This study explores the similarities and differences in the experiences of foster and kin carers in Australia. Specifically, the study examined their experiences of stress, role satisfaction, mental health, their perceptions of the child in their care, and access to services and support.
Although kin placements have increased dramatically over the last decade, the researchers found that kin carers generally receive less support, fewer services, and often no training, when compared to foster carers. As a result, kin carers reported significantly more mental health concerns and greater stress. The discrepancy in access to training, resources, and support services left kin carers unprepared, under-resourced, and unsupported in their role.
These inequalities reinforce the need for child protection professionals, policymakers, and service providers to ensure both kin and foster carers to have the same access to (and quality of) pre-placement and ongoing training, resources, and support services. Such improvements would reduce the negative impacts of caregiving and improve both carer well being and satisfaction.
The researchers suggest that, as the number of children entering child protection services increases, government and agency service providers must evaluate and restructure their foster and kin care policies and their service delivery practices.
2. Practitioner and foster carer perceptions of the support needs of young parents in and exiting out-of-home care: A systematic review (2020)
This literature review examines insights from practitioners and foster care providers who work with young parents in and exiting care (as well as their children). The article attempts to provide a contextualized understanding of front line practice and the experiences of young parents in care.
The studies included in this literature review described high levels of unmet needs for young parents living in care—particularly in the areas of education and employment training, social support, life skills, mental health services, and age-appropriate parenting services. Practitioners and foster care providers indicated that their capacity to meet these needs is often limited due to disjointed service provision, financial constraints, role ambiguity, and difficulties engaging with young parents.
As the researchers suggest, the implications are quite clear. For young parents in care, dedicated and suitable placements (as well as the continued availability of emotional, financial, and practical support after leaving care) are necessary to promote positive life trajectories. The article’s conclusion includes a series of practice implications and policy implications and calls for policymakers and researchers to focus on improving outcomes for young parents in (and aging out of) government care.
3. Datafied child welfare services: unpacking politics, economics and power (2020)
This article analyses three distinct child welfare data systems in England where data systems are being used to inform decision-making and transforming governance. The researchers explain and demonstrate why child welfare data systems should not be considered neutral decision-making tools.
They identify how systems of thought, ownership structures, policy agendas, organizational practices, and legal frameworks influence these data systems and raise key questions about if and how data technologies should be used to inform decision-making and governance.
Comparing different systems and their applications demonstrates how child welfare data must not be viewed as neutral, but instead as highly contingent on political and economic contexts. The researchers also argue that the use of data systems to target services reinforces the harmful neoliberal logic of individualizing social problems to direct attention away from the structural causes of problems.
They suggest further research on the ways child welfare data systems affect resource allocations and actions taken and the impact these changes have on families and children. Such questions are going to become increasingly pressing as the data marketplace for child welfare and social care grows.
4. Are child protection workers and judges in alignment with citizens when considering interventions into a family? (2020)
This paper examines whether and how the views of professional decision-makers in public agencies and courts align with the views of the public. It draws on survey data collected from citizens, child protection staff, and judiciary decision-makers in four jurisdictions: England, Finland, Norway, and the US.
The findings suggest that there is a high degree of similarity across countries when it comes to the public’s views about children’s need for services and the poor outcomes that may result without adequate service response. Views between child protection professionals and the public diverged on issues related to whether or not a child is suffering from neglect, the use of intrusive state interventions, and the future employment prospects for children.
In all four jurisdictions, there were commonly-held public views about the rights of children, about the responsibilities of parents toward their children, and the belief that vulnerable children’s needs should be attended to and protected by the government. Interestingly, this positive expectation of child welfare services stands in contrast to media coverage in all of these countries that is often critical of child welfare interventions (as either overly intrusive or insufficiently intrusive).
However, the public’s concern about children (and the expectation of an always-appropriate state response) raises questions about how to better design and fund robust child protection systems. In spite of the differences among jurisdictions, citizens always seem to expect more of these systems than what they may offer.
5. Professional Knowledge on Violence in Close Relationship in Swedish Social Services (2020)
Violence in close relationships (VCR) is a major social problem; recent data indicates that 1 in 3 women globally has been subjected to VCR at some point in her life. Given the extent of the problem, it is likely that many social workers will meet victims of violence in their daily work. As such, their knowledge about VCR is of increasing importance. This study aimed to examine the professional knowledge of VCR among social workers in the Swedish social services.
The results of this research identified a knowledge gap regarding VCR in Swedish social services. The authors suggest that this might be because social worker education has shortcomings in this area and/or that continuing education and training in social services is insufficient. They explain that working professionally with VCR requires (in addition to a solid basic education in social work) continuous training and professional development which may not be available.
Without knowledge on different aspects of domestic violence, social workers will be ill-equipped to prevent, pay attention to, and deal with VCR. The researchers argue that new and more VCR educational efforts are required in addition to time and conditions for supervision and critical reflection in ongoing social work (all of which require a commitment from politicians, officials, and supervisors).