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About this book

How do workers around the world balance risk and support to ensure that their practice meets the ever-changing needs of children and their families?

Renowned authors Marie Connolly and Kate Morris join forces to explore the frameworks and ideas which have shaped contemporary child and family welfare practice. From definitions of abuse to assessment models, they examine the knowledge base which lies at the heart of safe and effective statutory practice with children and families.

Drawing on examples from a range of English-speaking jurisdictions, the book explores:
How to engage families, including participatory approaches and the role of the Family Group Conference;
How to create positive out-of-home environments for children, discussing foster, kinship and residential care and adoption settings;
How to improve professional decision-making through supervision and other organizational frameworks.

At a time when child welfare systems across the globe are undergoing review, Understanding Child and Family Welfare provides a timely exploration of the reform agendas which will shape future practice. With sharp analytic insights into the difficulties and dilemmas which characterize this field, it is fundamental reading for all students studying child and family support or child protection, as well as for practitioners working within children and family settings.

Table of Contents

1. Responding to children at risk

Abstract
Key Points
  • Views about children and childhood have changed over time, resulting in a greater emphasis on children’s rights.
  • Parents are expected to both nurture their children’s development and wellbeing, and ensure that their children reach a level of healthy adult functioning where they can contribute to society.
  • Increased understanding of the diverse needs of children and their families has resulted in countries exploring public health approaches to service delivery which includes an emphasis on primary prevention.
Marie Connolly, Kate Morris

2. Regulatory frameworks in child welfare

Abstract
Key Points
  • Countries have developed different approaches to child welfare, both with respect to overall service orientation and to the ways in which they intervene in the life of a family.
  • Many countries have developed alternative or differential responses to service delivery that provide more attuned responses to family need.
  • Child protection services are constantly evolving, developing within a dynamic and often politically charged environment.
Marie Connolly, Kate Morris

3. Practice frameworks, models and resources in child welfare

Abstract
Key Points
  • Practice in child and family welfare evolves over time. Frameworks, models and tools giving effect to good practice need to be responsive to cultural imperatives, underpinned by strong ethical values and informed by quality research.
  • Interventions reflecting a commitment to partnership with families are increasingly seen as good practice in child and family welfare.
  • Robust child protection systems are supported by a clearly articulated know ledge base, sound assessment models that engage families, and effect ive professional decision-making processes.
Marie Connolly, Kate Morris

4. Family engagement strategies in child welfare

Abstract
Key Points
  • Internationally, systems of child protection have been working toward more collaborative ways of working with families. This has included harnessing the strengths of the wider kinship system in solution-focused practice.
  • In some countries, this has resulted in a shift from professionally-based decision-making to family-led decision-making. Working with family strengths has been central to this approach.
  • Whilst some countries have been able to support innovative practice, the involvement of families still remains a contested area of practice and presents challenges and opportunities for practitioners.
Marie Connolly, Kate Morris

5. Statutory systems of care

Abstract
Key Points
  • State systems of care have changed dramatically over time and continue to evolve in response to a more developed understanding of the needs of children and young people at risk.
  • There are three main types of state care: kinship care, foster care, and residential or institutional care.
  • International trends suggest a move toward kinship care as a preferred care option.
Marie Connolly, Kate Morris

6. Supporting family-based systems of care

Abstract
Key Points
  • Caring for children who cannot remain with their parents, either as formal, paid caregivers or as kinship carers, places considerable strain on carers and families and requires skilled social work support
  • Whilst there are factors that seem to support the likely success of a placement, outcomes are related to the individual needs of the child and require careful consideration of issues such as contact with birth families, ongoing support for caregivers and accurate assessments of children’s needs
  • Kinship caregivers provide an important service to the state in terms of caring for children at risk. In general, however, kinship care is not as well supported as other systems of statutory care and kinship carers face the challenges of poverty, poor support and complex family dynamics.
Marie Connolly, Kate Morris

7. The experiences and voices of children in care

Abstract
Key Points
  • Whilst there is a significant body of research and practice literature relating to children and care, it is important that we explore this from the perspective of the child.
  • Involving children and young people in decision-making processes can make a positive difference to the way they experience out-of-home care.
  • In recent years there has been a significant shift in perceptions towards recognizing children’s rights to both safety and nurturing care over time.
Marie Connolly, Kate Morris

8. Strengthening practice

Abstract
Key Points
  • In the past decades child protection practice has become increasingly demanding, creating significant challenges both for workers and supervisors. Identifying and extending the knowledge base is increasingly important as workers face the challenges of contemporary practice environments.
  • Developing ways of sharpening critical reasoning skills within the context of reflective supervision is one way of strengthening practice within this complex environment.
  • Creating meaningful supervision environments and professional development opportunities that address the particular needs of child protection workers is important if services are to protect the interests of children.
Marie Connolly, Kate Morris

Concluding thoughts

Abstract
In this book we have looked at the ways in which child protection work can be enhanced by a strong knowledge base, innovative professional ractices, and supportive organizational contexts. Creating strong ser vices for children is not an easy task and in recent times most English speaking child protection systems have undergone reform and development, often in response to challenging reviews that have exposed weaknesses in statutory service responses. Systems will continue to evolve and change, but it is significant that many recent reforms have emphasized systemic issues and called for integrated responses that support in depth, quality practice.
Marie Connolly, Kate Morris
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