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Preview: British Journal of Social Work - current issue

The British Journal of Social Work Current Issue

Published: Mon, 04 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Thu, 07 Sep 2017 03:51:45 GMT


Reclaiming the Ground—Territorialism or Expertise?


The brief but glorious English high summer is moving on: school and university examinations, end-of-term celebrations, home-grown strawberries and Wimbledon have all run their course and we move lazily into summer holidays—still work to be done but shifting down a gear, knowing that all too soon autumn and the new academic year will be upon us. Broadcast during Wimbledon, the popular long-running radio programme Desert Island Discs had as its guest John McEnroe, who has metamorphosed in Wimbledon eyes from the brilliant teen player with an explosive personality into the critical-edge TV commentator of today. Perhaps unsurprisingly, since the programme is about the guest’s relationship with music and its interaction with their life, the most interesting things McEnroe said were not to do with tennis (although he dealt patiently enough with past and recent controversies). Two anecdotes stood out in that they both illustrated the same insight. First, he described how he was practising the guitar in his hotel room when he was surprised by a knock on the door from David Bowie. Bowie invited him up to his room for a drink but added ‘Don’t bring the guitar’. Second, McEnroe, who is married to the singer-songwriter Pattie Smyth, explained that he had this idea of forming a group in which they performed together. Pattie countered this suggestion with her own—that he should enter them both for a mixed-doubles tournament. When McEnroe responded that she was not a tennis player, her reply was suitably dismissive: ‘Exactly.’

Advancing the Science of Social Work: The Case for Biosocial Research


Social workers have long advocated for using a biopsychosocial model for social work practice. Although the biopsychosocial framework to understanding and treating problems is ubiquitous to social work practice, the biological domain has historically been neglected. In recent years, however, social work practitioners and scholars have begun to embrace findings from biosocial research to inform theory and practice. Despite the emerging use of findings from biosocial research studies in social work, the discipline of social work seems slow to employ biosocial research designs to contribute new knowledge. This critical commentary discusses the importance of biosocial research to social work, explores the reluctance and barriers to more fully incorporating biosocial research designs, and argues for the social work research community to set an active biosocial research agenda so that we may contribute in a scientific way to testing and refining all aspects of the biopsychosocial framework.

Creating Connections with Child Welfare Workers: Experiences of Foster Parents’ Own Children


There is little research on the interpersonal relationships between child welfare workers and foster parents’ own children (FPOC). This qualitative study asked young adult children of foster parents (twenty to thirty-three years) to participate in an open-ended interview and also bring a ‘show-and-tell’ object to share their experiences of fostering to the present date. There were fifteen FPOC who consented to participate. Data analysis on the emerging themes around the relationships between FPOC and child welfare workers was conducted through a constructivist grounded theory approach. The results indicate that FPOC perceive strengths, but also struggles in creating and maintaining relationships with child welfare workers. The relational and embodied experiences of fostering are discussed alongside how child welfare practitioners can help positively strengthen their interpersonal relationships with FPOC by specifically setting time and space aside for them and by deeply listen to their fostering experiences.

Gaining Knowledge about Resilient Therapy: How Can It Support Kinship Carers?


The research reported on here examined the utility of a multidimensional model for operationalising the findings from a research-informed approach known as Resilient Therapy (RT). The approach is designed to support practitioners, carers, parents and young people in contexts of multiple disadvantages. Seven kinship carers and six children were involved in collaborative action research. Kinship carers met together, on eighteen occasions over a period of fifteen months, to learn about RT and explore how they might draw on the approach to inform their care of children. Children were interviewed on two occasions. Learning arising from the research suggests the importance of introducing RT as a collaborative model that builds opportunities for reflection and action. Carers are supported to find their own solutions, based on an understanding of their relationships with children, children’s relationships with them and with others in their network. It is an approach which is attentive to what families do and views family practices as emerging in complex ecological systems. The study is located in an inequalities-informed conceptualisation of resilience research. Findings reinforce the importance of understanding resilience building as a process which parents/carers/practitioners and young people can facilitate, but also one that must be attentive to the socio-economic systems around families.

Developing Integrative Perspectives of Social Work Identity through Dialectics


The health and human services arena in contemporary society is becoming increasingly multidisciplinary. Social work’s understanding of the conditions and needs of marginalised populations can positively contribute to the collective efforts to address complex problems in the postmodern world. Throughout history and due to the diversity of its focus and methods, social work has struggled to develop a unified perspective of its professional focus and the core professional transactions. A lack of consensus regarding professional focus has undermined social work’s professional identity, which becomes particularly problematic within the context of the multidisciplinary collaboration in which each discipline is expected to make unique contributions. Recent scholarly discourses recognise that the profession’s characteristic as a distinct integrative science is at the core of its professional identity formation. Integrative science strives to develop new applications of existing theories or design new integrative theories. The current paper seeks to rediscover the value of dialectics, an integrative theory that has been suggested to be applicable to social work practice and education. In doing so, dialectic thinking implied in the writings of social work scholars who strived to develop integrative perspectives of social work identity is examined throughout the history of the profession’s development.

The Hidden Cost of Foster-Care: New Evidence on the Inter-Generational Transmission of Foster-Care Experiences


This study investigates inter-generational transmission of foster-care, to test the extent to which an overrepresentation of children of foster-care alumni in a group of children in care persists after controlling for parents’ additional resources (such as criminal history, crime and labour market attachment). For this purpose, we use administrative data from Statistics Denmark, which we analyse using simple descriptive statistics and probit models. Results show that, while children of foster-care alumni are seven to ten times more likely than other children to experience foster-care, this overrepresentation is halved when we control for parental resources.

Low-Income Women’s Encounters with Social Services: Negotiation over Power, Knowledge and Respectability


Social work literature has paid increased attention to relations between those living in poverty and social service workers. Numerous studies have reported inconsistencies between clients’ and social workers’ perceptions of the adequacy of support. Relatively little attention has been paid, however, to clients’ voices, and seldom are they treated as experts in their own lives. This qualitative study examines the perceptions of women living in poverty in terms of their encounters with social services, focusing on their felt experience. Based on in-depth interviews of fifty breadwinning Jewish Israeli mothers, the analysis reveals four central mechanisms of social exclusion within the encounters between social service workers and their clients, which deprive the women of the opportunity to own power, knowledge and respectability: closing doors; humiliation, shame and stigma; accusation and criticism; and invisibility. To a considerably lesser extent, the analysis also points to mechanisms of social inclusion: visibility, dignity and respect. The paper discusses the implications of these findings in terms of how encounters between women living in poverty and the social services could facilitate social inclusion and respectability, as well as poverty alleviation.

Repairing What’s Left in Social Work, or, When Knowledge No Longer Cuts


In this paper, I take as my problematic the reproduction and renewal of justice cultures within social work after the fall of left progress narratives. My point of departure is the question of how our applied discipline might imagine and practise and teach justice when there are no guarantees that we are actually good people or that our justice work does not cause harm. Orienting to social work as a world-making project that exceeds us all, I weave scholarship from social work historians together with contemporary debates among the left to propose a form of reparative historical practice that might stimulate the justice imaginations of our field. Anchoring this discussion around the concepts of keywords, structures of feelings and disciplinary desire, I theorise some of the ways in which the histories and justice imaginations of individuals and generations converge within our discipline. Emphasising the relational nature of this proposed historical practice, I argue social work must make into a productive knowledge the fact that it is impossible to act in the world without ever causing harm. Allowing ourselves to be cut by this knowledge is necessary if we are to repair what is left in social work.

The Perceptions of Motherhood among Family Social Workers in Social Services Departments in Israel


This study examined how family social workers in social services departments in Israel perceive motherhood and mothering, in particular how the various aspects of the ‘good mother’ myth are evident in their notions of motherhood and how these are manifested in their encounters with their female clients who are mothers. The research methodology was qualitative, emerging from a critical feminist perspective. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were held with twenty-two Jewish social workers in ten welfare departments in Israel. The study’s findings suggest that, while the participants’ descriptions do not reflect all aspects of the ‘good mother’ myth, elements of that myth do feed into their notions of motherhood. Encounters with the clients’ mothering practices raised mixed feelings in the social workers and, while most of the participants saw a connection between their clients’ mothering practices and their difficult life stories, they opted for a psycho-educational approach in their work with the mothers.

Cost Offsets of Supportive Housing: Evidence for Social Work


Policy makers and advocates in industrialised economies have increasingly couched arguments for addressing homelessness in cost-offset paradigms. In the USA, there is a robust body of evidence demonstrating cost offsets of supportive housing, whereas rigorous evidence from the UK, Europe and Australia is limited. The present article contributes to the evidence base with results drawn from a linked administrative data-set including: police, prison, probation, parole, courts, emergency department, hospital-admitted patients, ambulance, mental health and homelessness services data. The results show that in twelve months when people were homeless, they used on average $48,217 (£25,776) worth of government services; in the twelve months as tenants of supportive housing, the cohort used on average, including the cost of supportive housing, $35,117 (£18,773) in government services. Although social work only infrequently draws on cost arguments to substantiate practice and intervention, the article argues that cost-offset evidence is consistent with social work’s commitment to evidence base practice. Moreover, analysis of services that people use when securely housed compared to homeless adds further evidence to demonstrate that people’s actions, and their status as clients, is mediated by resources and opportunities available.

Which Counts More: Differential Impact of the Environment or Differential Susceptibility of the Individual?


The theory of differential susceptibility is helping to explain how genetic, neurological and personality factors affect individual mental and physical health and why interventions work better with certain populations. As social workers, however, our focus is more on the impact of the social determinants of health found in people’s environments and the nuanced way external factors influence psychological treatment outcomes and human development over time rather than genotypes and phenotypes. This article discusses differential impact theory (DIT) as a complementary theory to differential susceptibility in an effort to make both theories relevant to social work practice. After a brief summary of the differential susceptibility research, I draw from studies of psycho-social interventions and Person × Environment interactions to show that responsibility for positive adaptation resides within the systems that surround individuals just as much as, and possibly more than, within individuals themselves. DIT provides a more balanced explanation than differential susceptibility theory alone for why clinical and community interventions and changes to social policy can have a positive influence on psycho-social outcomes. The implications of DIT are discussed with regard to the design and delivery of psychological and social interventions.

Divergent Practices in Statutory and Voluntary-Sector Settings? Social Work with Asylum Seekers


The landscape for social work is continually changing and working with asylum seekers remains a highly charged and contested area of practice. This paper compares the role of social workers working with asylum seekers in statutory and voluntary-sector settings in the UK. Institutional practices suggest a divide between statutory settings and charitable organisations. However, based on empirical qualitative research and in-depth interviews with thirty-four social workers in Scotland and the south-east of England that explored dominant discourses influencing their practice, we suggest considerable similarities in the different sectors. Austerity measures for local authorities (LA) and voluntary agencies have resulted in the closure of specialist teams and reduced funding for social workers. Findings highlight politicised dominant narratives when working with asylum seekers and we argue for alternatives that promote a more nuanced perspective of entitlement and human rights.

Recognising Birth Children as Social Actors in the Foster-Care Process: Retrospective Accounts from Biological Children of Foster-Carers in Ireland


While a wealth of literature exists on the topic of fostering, limited research has been published on the experiences of the biological children of foster-carers (Younes and Harp, 2007; Sutton and Stack, 2013). Literature that exists identifies increased recognition of the importance of birth children’s contribution to successful foster-care placements and the prevention of placement breakdown (Kalland and Sinkonnen, 2001; Hojer et al., 2013). This paper reports findings from an interpretivist study that explored the retrospective experiences of fifteen adult birth children of foster-carers (aged between eighteen and twenty-eight years) in Ireland. Using semi-structured interviews, birth children’s experiences of fostering processes and their interactions with fostering professionals are explored. Findings indicate that birth children are not passive observers in how fostering influences their daily lives. Instead they use strategies to influence fostering processes, in particular to protect their parents and birth siblings, while also having feelings of responsibility for their foster siblings. Findings suggest that, despite the complexity of the fostering task, professionals should recognise and acknowledge the input of birth children to fostering. The study also suggests the value of training that encourages foster-carers to continually include the opinions of their own children in fostering decisions.

Policy Rationales for Electronic Information Systems: An Area of Ambiguity


Child welfare and protection (CWP) has engaged in the introduction of Electronic Information Systems (EIS), such as electronic recording, assessment and decision-making tools. It has been argued that EIS have adverse consequences in which governments are conceived as homogeneous entities that install EIS for self-interested purposes. Consequently, research focuses on how social workers evade/reshape the sometimes pernicious effects of EIS. Insufficient attention has been given to the governmental perspective and to why governments install EIS. In this article, we contribute to this debate by performing semi-structured interviews with policy actors (directors, policy advisers and staff members) in the field of CWP in Flanders. Asked about their rationales for installing EIS, they spoke of administrative, policy, care and economic reasons. However, while advocating these EIS, they also expressed a critical attitude concerning the usefulness of EIS, hoping that practitioners would move back and forth between governmental demands and day-to-day realities, to establish a more responsive social work. This ambiguous situation in which policy makers seem to be both strong supporters and critics of EIS at the same time is captivating, since it seems no longer necessary to perceive governments as a homogeneous bogeyman and social work as a victim.

The Ecology of Judgement: A Model for Understanding and Improving Social Work Judgements


Professional judgement is viewed as a crucial yet complex aspect of social work practice. Significant factors in judgement are understood to include individual psychological and emotional processes, interpersonal communication and the relationship between social work as a profession and society. Each contributory factor must be described and understood clearly in its own right and there is also a need to describe and understand the ways in which these different elements interact as parts of a complex system. We propose an ecological model of judgement that facilitates consideration of the complex non-linear interactions between multiple components forming a system or ‘ecology’ of judgement. Originating in the concepts of ecological rationality and systems thinking, this paper proposes the ecology of judgement as a clear and logical model which practitioners and organisations can use to support and promote critical reflexive judgement in practice.

Past Experience with Maternal Parenting among Mothers of Pre-School Children and Maternal Acceptance–Rejection: The Moderating Role of the Care-Giving System


The theory of parental acceptance–rejection and Bowlbys’ attachment theory were used as the framework for examining how the parenting style experienced by the mothers in childhood is related to acceptance–rejection of their pre-school children in the present, as well as for examining the moderating role of the care-giving system. The sample consisted of 150 Israeli mothers, who were asked to complete self-report questionnaires relating to: maternal acceptance–rejection; experience with maternal parenting in childhood; care-giving system; and personal variables. The findings indicate that maltreatment experienced in childhood contributes to the mother’s acceptance–rejection of her children in the present, and that an avoidant care-giving style moderates the relationship between permissive maternal parenting in childhood and the mother’s acceptance of her children in the present. The study highlights the importance of the care-giving system as a moderating factor, as well as the role of therapeutic intervention aimed at ‘breaking’ inter-generational transmission in cases where childhood experiences with maternal parenting were less positive.

Exploring Communication between Social Workers, Children and Young People


A key issue for the social work profession concerns the nature, quality and content of communicative encounters with children and families. This article introduces some findings from a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) that took place across the UK between 2013 and 2015, which explored how social workers communicate with children in their everyday practice. The Talking and Listening to Children (TLC) project had three phases: the first was ethnographic, involving observations of social workers in their workplace and during visits; the second used video-stimulated recall with a small number of children and their social workers; and the third developed online materials to support social workers. This paper discusses findings from the first phase. It highlights a diverse picture regarding the context and content of communicative processes; it is argued that attention to contextual issues is as important as focusing on individual practitioners’ behaviours and outlines a model for so doing.

Parental Participation in Statutory Child Protection Intervention in Scotland


In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in understanding parental participation in the processes that characterise statutory child protection intervention. In part, this reflects a shift in thinking across Western child protection systems, which has recognised that active parental involvement in intervention is more likely to lead to better outcomes for children at risk of abuse and/or neglect and a repositioning of child protection practices within broader discourses of service user participation. In this paper, we present the findings of a small-scale qualitative study which explored the experiences of twelve parents who were, at the time of the study, subject to statutory child protection intervention measures in Scotland. Parents reported intervention experiences as simultaneously negative and positive. The early stages of intervention and child protection case conferences were experienced as particularly distressing and confusing. The importance of the client–worker relationship emerged as central to meaningful participation and positive outcomes.

Facilitating Meaningful Contact in Adoption and Fostering: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Planning, Assessing and Good Practice, Louis Sydney, Elsie Price and Adoptionplus


Facilitating Meaningful Contact in Adoption and Fostering: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Planning, Assessing and Good Practice, SydneyLouis, PriceElsie and Adoptionplus, London, Jessica Kingsley, 2015, pp. 216, ISBN 978–1–84905–508–6, £19.99 (p/b)

Governing Risk: Care and Control in Contemporary Social Work, Mark Hardy


Governing Risk: Care and Control in Contemporary Social Work, HardyMark, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, pp. 221, ISBN 9780230364158, £65.00 (h/b)

Practice Research Partnerships in Social Work, Christa Fouché


Practice Research Partnerships in Social Work, FouchéChrista, Bristol, Policy Press, 2015, pp. 192, ISBN 9781447314011, £19.99 (p/b)

Supporting Adult Care-Leavers: International Good Practice, Suellen Murray


Supporting Adult Care-Leavers: International Good Practice, MurraySuellen, Bristol, Policy Press, 2015, pp. 284, ISBN 978–1–4473–1364–9, £24.99 (p/b)

Achieving Successful Transitions for Young People with Disabilities: A Practical Guide, Jill Hughes and Natalie Lackenby


Achieving Successful Transitions for Young People with Disabilities: A Practical Guide, HughesJill and LackenbyNatalie, London, Jessica Kingsley, 2015, pp. 208, ISBN 9781849055680, £16.99 (p/b)

Being Seconded to a Mental Health Trust: The (In)Visibility of Mental Health Social Work


The paper explores the implications of being a social worker seconded to a Mental Health Trust based on narrative interviews with mental health social workers. As part of a wider study, thirteen mental health social workers from across England were interviewed individually about their experiences of being seconded to a Mental Health Trust. Building on the work of Andrew Pithouse, the findings reveal the (in)visibility of mental health social work. The social workers were isolated within Health Trusts with minimal links to their local authority employers. They struggled to articulate and define social work. Instead, social work was depicted as being indefinable, involving working in liminal spaces and as filling the gaps left by other professions. Furthermore, the social workers were unable to make social work visible, as social work is not ‘seen’ by the other members of the team. Finally, the social workers were unable to make social visible through supervision if they did not have a social work manager. The paper ends with an unexpected outcome of the research: the notion of the research interview as surrogate supervision.