Permanency decisions in child welfare: A qualitative study

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The multifaceted nature of decision-making and the existence of a diverse mix of interwoven factors 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 statusPublished - 06 Apr 2022
EventEuropean Conference Social Work Research - Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 06 Apr 202208 Apr 2022


ConferenceEuropean Conference Social Work Research


  • decision making
  • Child Protection
  • Permanency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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