Permanency Decisions in Child Welfare: A Qualitative Study

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract

Permanency decisions are recognised as being amongst the most challenging decisions a child welfare worker is likely to make, due in large part to their problematic and contested nature, presenting the decision maker with inimitable challenges. Despite these challenges, society expects decisions in these circumstances to be of the highest quality, consistent, reliable, and fully justified. The multifaceted nature of decision-making and the existence of a diverse mix of interwoven factors however greatly challenges rational judgement and permanency decisions may not always be as consistent as one would anticipate. Considering this, it is important to examine social work practice within which permanency decisions are taken in child welfare. This presentation will describe findings from an exploratory in-depth qualitative research project with seventeen child welfare professionals exploring their permanency decisions with regards to Looked after Children. The presentation will outline how thinking aloud-protocols and semi-structured interviews, in conjunction with a specifically constructed vignette were used to explore the permanency decisions of child welfare workers. Findings from this innovative research suggest that different decisions were taken by participants based on viewing the same vignette. However, even though the decisions differed, they clustered around the more interventionist options with most favouring adoption and foster care despite viable alternatives offered. There was broad consistency related to the rationale for the decisions taken, but this did not translate into a consistent permanency option being chosen. Possible reasons to account for this are that the decisions were heuristically constructed, idiosyncratic to individual inclinations and influenced by factors other than the individual needs of the service user. The implications of this are that children and families may not get a consistent and reliable response to their permanency needs. We therefore recommend the greater use of structured decision-making tools in permanency decisions to increase their objectivity and consistency, and this will be discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted - 19 Oct 2021
Event11th European Conference for Social Work Research - Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 06 Apr 202208 Apr 2022
https://www.ecswr2022.org/

Conference

Conference11th European Conference for Social Work Research
Country/TerritoryNetherlands
CityAmsterdam
Period06/04/202208/04/2022
Internet address

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