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Framing the 'child at risk' in social work reports : truth-telling or storytelling?

Griet Roets (UGent) , Rudi Roose (UGent) , Lieselot De Wilde (UGent) and Bruno Vanobbergen (UGent)
(2017) JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK. 17(4). p.453-469
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Organization
Abstract
Summary: In the field of child welfare and protection, the notion of the ‘child at risk’ implies a central ground and legitimation for intervention yet is extremely ambiguous, since it can be constructed in radically different ways in practice. This construction process might involve challenges to professional assessment and intervention, since dealing with this complex notion is about more than tools, (risk) management and protocols. We focus on the practice of writing reports as an exemplary practice in which social workers exercise their power while assessing and constructing the child as ‘at risk’. Two approaches of social workers in interpreting the complexity of situations where children are potentially at risk are considered: truth-telling and storytelling. We report on a qualitative study conducted with 152 social work students in which we explore how they construct reports. Findings: In our analysis, we identify three major issues in the construction of the “child at risk” when social work students approach report writing as an open-ended and reflexive practice of storytelling: recognisability, comprehensibility and stigmatisation. Applications: The normative judgment processes in social work are complex, determined by the analysis of situations in which the child may potentially be constructed as being at risk. Dealing with this complexity therefore requires reflexivity of social workers regarding their perceptions and interpretations at stake in practice. We argue that normative judgment in risk assessment should be an essential area for exploration in social work education.
Keywords
child protection, report writing, risk assessment, reflexive practice, social work, family interventions

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Citation

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MLA
Roets, Griet et al. “Framing the ‘Child at Risk’ in Social Work Reports : Truth-telling or Storytelling?” JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK 17.4 (2017): 453–469. Print.
APA
Roets, G., Roose, R., De Wilde, L., & Vanobbergen, B. (2017). Framing the “child at risk” in social work reports : truth-telling or storytelling? JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK, 17(4), 453–469.
Chicago author-date
Roets, Griet, Rudi Roose, Lieselot De Wilde, and Bruno Vanobbergen. 2017. “Framing the ‘Child at Risk’ in Social Work Reports : Truth-telling or Storytelling?” Journal of Social Work 17 (4): 453–469.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Roets, Griet, Rudi Roose, Lieselot De Wilde, and Bruno Vanobbergen. 2017. “Framing the ‘Child at Risk’ in Social Work Reports : Truth-telling or Storytelling?” Journal of Social Work 17 (4): 453–469.
Vancouver
1.
Roets G, Roose R, De Wilde L, Vanobbergen B. Framing the “child at risk” in social work reports : truth-telling or storytelling? JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK. 2017;17(4):453–69.
IEEE
[1]
G. Roets, R. Roose, L. De Wilde, and B. Vanobbergen, “Framing the ‘child at risk’ in social work reports : truth-telling or storytelling?,” JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 453–469, 2017.
@article{5802061,
  abstract     = {Summary: In the field of child welfare and protection, the notion of the ‘child at risk’ implies a central ground and legitimation for intervention yet is extremely ambiguous, since it can be constructed in radically different ways in practice. This construction process might involve challenges to professional assessment and intervention, since dealing with this complex notion is about more than tools, (risk) management and protocols. 
We focus on the practice of writing reports as an exemplary practice in which social workers exercise their power while assessing and constructing the child as ‘at risk’. Two approaches of social workers in interpreting the complexity of situations where children are potentially at risk are considered: truth-telling and storytelling. We report on a qualitative study conducted with 152 social work students in which we explore how they construct reports.

Findings: In our analysis, we identify three major issues in the construction of the “child at risk” when social work students approach report writing as an open-ended and reflexive practice of storytelling: recognisability, comprehensibility and stigmatisation.

Applications: The normative judgment processes in social work are complex, determined by the analysis of situations in which the child may potentially be constructed as being at risk. Dealing with this complexity therefore requires reflexivity of social workers regarding their perceptions and interpretations at stake in practice. We argue that normative judgment in risk assessment should be an essential area for exploration in social work education.},
  author       = {Roets, Griet and Roose, Rudi and De Wilde, Lieselot and Vanobbergen, Bruno},
  issn         = {1468-0173},
  journal      = {JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK},
  keywords     = {child protection,report writing,risk assessment,reflexive practice,social work,family interventions},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {4},
  pages        = {453--469},
  title        = {Framing the 'child at risk' in social work reports : truth-telling or storytelling?},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1468017316644864},
  volume       = {17},
  year         = {2017},
}

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