Balancing risk and protective factors: how do social workers and managers analyse referrals that may indicate children are at risk of significant harm?
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractThis paper is based upon the findings of a qualitative study of how child protection social workers and social work managers analyse referrals. The study involved interviews with eighteen participants based on four vignettes of children potentially at risk of emotional, physical or sexual abuse or neglect. Three themes in particular are discussed—the balancing of risk, protective and resilience factors; the use of family history and the child's wider circumstances; and ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ unknowns (‘missing information’). These findings are considered in relation to the potential use of actuarial risk assessment tools or Structured Decisions Making tools in child protection social work. The first of two conclusions is that when given adequate space and time the participants tended to be to be reflective and analytical, but that difficulties remained in their ability to analyse the referrals, in particular with the identification of protective or resilience factors and in the balancing of risk and protective or resilience factors in relation to individual children. The second conclusion is that social workers and managers may benefit from assistance in identifying protective and resilience factors (and distinguishing between protective factors and resilience factors) in particular and this may offer a focus for the introduction of structured tools as a way to support current practice rather than to replace it.
CitationWilkins, D. (2013) 'Balancing risk and protective factors: how do social workers and managers analyse referrals that may indicate children are at risk of significant harm?', British Journal of Social Work, 45 (1), pp.395-411.
PublisherOxford University Press
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work