Digital relationality, rights, resilience: conceptualising a digital social ecology for children’s birth family relationships when in care or adopted

Mandi MacDonald*, Amy Conley Wright, Amanda Taylor-Beswick, Kathryn Gillespie, Susan Collings

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
118 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The use of digital communication technology by children residing in out-of-home care or adopted from foster care has mainly been approached hesitantly and from a risk paradigm. The Covid-19 pandemic catalysed many digital and social work intersections, including practices used for birth family contact where in-person visits were supplemented or replaced with ‘virtual’ contact via digital devices. Whilst technology-mediated contact is characterised as ‘virtual’, the relationships it facilitates and emotions it generates are very real within children’s social ecology. Digital ubiquity in social life and the rapid pace of technological change presents significant ethical and practical tensions. To help social workers navigate this complexity of ‘contact-in-reality’ and facilitate safe, ethical use of digital communication technology for birth family contact, we connect an understanding of the dynamics of birth family contact with literature on children’s use of digital technology and ecological concepts of person-in-environment to offer a digital social ecology heuristic for social work practice. Three key aspects cut across all systems and levels, referred to here as the three Digital R’s: digital relationality; digital rights; and digital resilience. Future research is needed to understand how these dynamics play out.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-235
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Volume53
Issue number1
Early online date29 Jul 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

Keywords

  • Health (social science)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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