While child welfare practitioners in many countries are struggling to develop methods of effective family engagement, they operate within different national and cultural contexts which influence, both positively and negatively, the ability to engage with families. Increasingly, international comparisons are necessary to further understanding of the development of social work practice. This is particularly necessary because most countries utilize international frameworks (such as the United National Convention on the Rights of the Child) to provide guidance in the development of policies, programs, and interventions. Each country (and locality) struggles to advance practice to be more effective and humane. Our paper offers a comparative analysis focused on family-oriented and rights-based frameworks of different countries. Based on a review of current national policies and a review of the literature regarding family based practices, we examine similarities and differences among four countries: the United Kingdom, Sweden, the United States, and South Korea. These countries were selected because they have some similarities (advanced industrialized democracies, professional social work, formal child protection systems) but have some differences in their social welfare systems (policies, specific practices, socio-cultural context). These differences can be utilized to advance understanding regarding the promise and potential for family engagement strategies. We then discuss the utility of this comparison for theory-building in the arena of child care practice and conclude by identifying the challenges and limitations of this work.
- Child care policy and practice, Family group conferencing, Children’s rights, Comparative child welfare