• Summary: Specialization in social work practice is increasing in many countries at the same time as textbooks argue for generalist practice. Is there any empirical evidence for one or the other of these approaches? This article discusses generalist and specialist practice, theoretically as well as empirically, by presenting a study of a personal social services organization in Sweden.
• Findings: The article demonstrates advantages as well as disadvantages of specialization for clients and social workers, and concludes that it is the work with clients within the personal social services which, to a large extent, demands that the social worker is a generalist. An outline structure for an alternative personal social services organization is postulated.
• Applications: It is argued that the alternative structure could 1) satisfy the need for generalist and specialist competence respectively, and 2) facilitate harmony between social workers’ professional needs and administrative requirements for management and resource allocation.
This study analyzes the representations of immigrants found in three US social work periodicals published between 1882 and 1952. Beginning from Foucault’s notion of the ‘history of the present’, an approach to history which examines the past in order to illuminate a present-day problematic, and using textual analysis techniques provided by Jacques Derrida, this work of historical discourse analysis traces the discursive constructions of identity through which immigrants were problematized as particular kinds of subjects in social work discourse.
Findings: The immigrant objects of social work attention - subjects subjugated through the discourse of problematization - were discursive inventions. But the differential valuations which constructed individual immigrants or whole ‘races’ of immigrants as ‘desirable’ or ‘undesirable’ were consequential markers invoking vastly unequal material consequences for those so categorized. Social workers, as significant producers of discourses of immigrants, had and do have a much greater range of influence and responsibility than that with which we were and still are wont to credit ourselves.
Application: In making visible the discursive practices of the past, this paper seeks to clarify the task of present-day social workers: to uncover the margins and the limits of the discourses that construct our troubled times.
• Summary: Members of the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) were asked to provide their definition of social work. Over 300 responses were analysed thematically in order to determine if practitioner views corresponded to recent shifts in social work education and theory which emphasized the importance of social change, strengths based perspectives and the importance of local and indigenous contexts.
• Findings: The findings demonstrate that while there was some recognition of social change and strengths-based perspectives in the definitions of social work provided, that those working in the field remain focused on ‘helping individuals, families and groups’ engage in change. Respondents did not, for the most part, acknowledge local or indigenous perspectives in their definitions.
• Applications: Results from this study may be useful for social work professional organizations, and social work educators, students and future researchers who are interested in the definition of social work and its scopes of practice.
• Summary: This article examines the need for a new public law designed to protect vulnerable adults who are being abused. It considers the impact of the Human Rights Act 1998 on the debate on the need for a new law, and considers developments in the USA and proposals for reform in Scotland. Social workers are frequently in the position of having to deal with the abuse of adults, without a clear legal framework that empowers them to act to protect the person being abused.
• Findings: The article concludes that there is a need for some form of public law designed to protect vulnerable adults. Existing law, which is mainly judge-made, is inappropriate and lacks the required predictability and procedural safeguards. The article argues that the European Convention on Human Rights imposes a duty on states to protect vulnerable adults; however, in devising such a law, regard must be had to the right under the convention to a private life. Any new law must carefully balance these two (often competing) rights. Further difficulties may arise when seeking to define ‘vulnerable adult’ and to identify the precise moment of intervention. The term ‘vulnerable adult’ should include in its definition not only people who lack capacity, but others who are extremely vulnerable and at grave risk.
• Applications: Existing provisions do not provide adequate protection for abused vulnerable adults. The governments in Wales and England need to learn from the US experience and also look at the Scottish Law Commission’s proposals. The current soft-law approach is no longer adequate; new legislation is urgently needed. Social workers should consider their professional response to the current situation.
Summary:This review explores the international literature on therapeutic work with sexually abused children. The emphasis is on the nature, extent and outcomes of non-offending parental involvement in such work. The context is an increasing recognition of the significant influence that non-offending parents may have on their children’s recovery and, at the same time, the serious impact on parents themselves of finding out about the sexual abuse of their children, including the impact on their relationships with their children.
Findings:The article identifies a number of distinct approaches to therapy that differ widely in the nature and extent of non-offending parental involvement. The diversity of approach reflects the variety of underlying theoretical orientation. The implications for children’s recovery are discussed.
Applications: Involving non-offending parents in therapeutic work with their sexually abused children may be important in promoting successful outcomes. It is argued that the perceived benefits of some of the approaches under review may be used flexibly, and in combination, to make significant advances in practice.
Research suggests that if an individual is cruel to animals then he/she is more likely to be aggressive towards his/her partner and children; that children who are abused are more likely to be cruel to animals; and that children who are cruel to animals are more likely to be aggressive towards humans. Because of the potential seriousness of the link between cruelty to animals and a child’s experiences and behaviour, a survey was undertaken in the UK to explore what services were available to children who were cruel to animals. This paper summarizes some of the existing research and describes the study of services.
Findings: The findings show that a small number of children are already receiving services, but that most agencies do not routinely include cruelty to animals as part of their assessment. There is no therapy or counselling specifically focused on cruelty to animals, but agencies could provide a range of services appropriate to the needs of the child and/or the family.
Applications: This articles highlights the fact that a child’s cruelty to animals may be an important symptom of negative experiences and/or predictor of future aggressive behaviour and that cruelty to animals should be included in assessments of vulnerable children.
• Summary: Domestic violence agency administrators struggle to incorporate the Internet safely and effectively into their intimate partner violence (IPV) services. This study utilizes two data gathering tools to identify administrative concerns and web content in the 91 Texas shelters. The first research stage employed a mixed-methods questionnaire (89% response rate) to identify managers’ Internet use patterns and managerial needs. In the second stage, all shelter web sites (65) were submitted to a multi-context content analysis.
• Findings: Overall, findings indicate that administrators see a serious need for basic administrative support tools (e.g. policies and training materials) and the development of cyber-safety resources (e.g. online stalking tips). Administrators view the Internet’s potential for increasing staff efficiency and clients’ sense of self-efficacy as worthwhile. Questionnaire findings indicate that 66 percent of directors need a means of helping clients learn to do their own information-seeking, only 54 percent have a written policy, and 46 percent have no in-house training at all. Web site findings indicate that 61 percent of the sites lacked minimal cyber-safety information despite administrative concerns about cyber-stalking.
• Applications: IPV shelter administrators’ two Internet utility criteria, service priorities and resources, privilege implementation barriers and ignore the embedded expectations of communication and resource support. By shifting from a shelter-based Internet perspective to a user-generated perspective, administrators can integrate clients’ expectations with the shelter’s options. The resultant conceptual framework for Internet integration posits the lived information experience as managers’ basis for shaping social communication, resource generation, information seeking, and decision-making.
• Summary: Since the mid-1970s the Australian welfare state has faced a continuing crisis of resourcing and legitimation. Social work as a central entity within the welfare state has been challenged in terms of to its value base and relevance. As with much of the Western world, this challenge has been heightened with the rise of neoliberalism, which has pervaded most aspects of Australian society. Neoliberalism has consequently had a profound effect upon Australian social workers. The challenges to the Australian welfare state and social work are from without and within, by neoliberal ideas and its practices.
• Findings: While neoliberalism’s relationship to social work as a broad theme is explored in the literature, the complexity of marketization and inclusive aspects have not been considered in any detail in relation to social work. The evidence in the Australian context is even slimmer, and as a consequence the particularity of the Australian welfare state and its relationship to neoliberalism, and the consequences for Australian social work, remains largely untested. Furthermore, while there are some indications of the day to day impact on social work in the context of a post-welfare state regime, little work has been conducted on the capacity of neoliberalism to infiltrate social work through its new institutions of the social and thus become embedded in social work.
• Application: This article lays the foundations for a research project to examine the extent to which neoliberalism has become embedded in Australian social work and how social workers and social work educators are responding to these hegemonic influences. What are the ways in which social workers have become complicit in neoliberalism? Is Australian social work part of the neoliberal project to the point where neoliberalism has become part of its understandings and everyday activity? It is hoped that through this research, a more sophisticated understanding of the impact of neoliberalism on social work will contribute to the revitalization of critical social work in Australia and forms of resistance to the neoliberal project.
• Summary: The article studies how professionals working in a Finnish supported housing unit explain the behaviour of clients which they define as troublesome in regard to rehabilitation expectations. The clients of the unit suffer from mental health and substance abuse problems. The research data consist of 23 meetings where clients’ progress is discussed and were analysed using accounts analysis.
• Findings: There were 225 episodes where the professionals explain clients’ troublesome behaviour. Three ways of accounting appeared with similar frequency: 1) blaming clients for their behaviour, 2) excusing clients’ behaviour, 3) excusing clients and blaming others for the clients’ behaviour. Detailed analysis of the data shows how these ways of accounting are used in the meeting talk and how blame, excuses and responsibility are combined in different ways. Another important finding is that the same troublesome behaviour can be accounted for in several ways in the course of meeting conversations.
• Applications : The analysis displays the complex ways in which policy imperatives and professional ethics are routinely managed in everyday situations. While concepts like self-determination and choice promote clients’ control of their care, in practice client careers are affected by locally negotiated judgements. The study of policy implementation can benefit from discourse-oriented approaches.
• Summary: This article investigates how newspapers in the Republic of Ireland are delivering ‘social work news’ during a period of professional flux and evolving economic crisis.
• Findings: Many citizens in the Republic are currently experiencing serious economic hardship partly related to the global recession. It is important to understand the shape which the crisis is taking and to try to ascertain how this is impacting on social work. The article refers to an unpublished study of newspaper coverage of social work between January 2006 and January 2008. In this context, in the second part of discussion, particular attention will be devoted to the interventions of The Irish Times columnist, John Waters. Also, to accounts of ‘high profile cases’, particularly those appearing to highlight the urgent need to establish a national emergency or ‘out-of-hours’ social work service. Here, the work of the social affairs correspondent, Carl O’Brien, will be discussed.
• Applications: Social workers and social work academics need to strive to understand, and politically situate, newspaper accounts of social work and related forms of activity. Moreover, social workers should seek to intervene and shape newspaper accounts of their work. The article suggests that a recent report produced in England may aid social workers deliberations and actions in this respect ( Social Work Task Force, 2009 ).
Summary: This article reports the findings of the Edge of Change Project which sought to enable specialist social services teams in three local authorities to improve services for Deaf and hard of hearing service
users in line with the Best Practice Standards. In particular we highlight the characteristics of the three areas: the projects they chose; a flavour of how they addressed the projects; and identify potential lessons for
those similarly seeking to improve services.
• Findings: In particular we identify potential glimpses for meaningful change including: change being based on underpinning values, partnership with service users, effective communication, ‘seed money’ creativity and a collegial style of management. The inhibitors of change
identified include: ‘keeping the day-job going’, underestimating the amount of time and resources required, staff changes, lack of technological support, and the need to be both looking in and out and the fact that external events can change everything. • Applications: The themes discussed are potentially generalizable and may be of help to those considering similar changes with specialist
This non-experimental study was undertaken in order to explore the nature of the relationship between mental health status, English language acquisition, and economic self-sufficiency among recent Bosnian refugees. The subjects (N = 34) were Bosnian refugees recruited from a Catholic refugee resettlement program in the Syracuse area of central New York.
Findings: Though no correlation was found among the hypothesized variable relationships, serious trauma-related symptoms were identified in about one-third of refugees. Although no empirical link was identified between trauma-related symptoms and self-sufficiency, the incidence of those symptoms is a cause for concern. Frequently indicated symptoms included sleep disturbance, loneliness, and hopelessness about the future.
Applications: From our findings, we can only consider these issues as mental health or quality of life concerns, not as barriers to self-sufficiency. Independently of this study’s lack of support for the latter, these quality of life concerns per se are deserving of attention. Given the regional labor shortage at the time of the study, it is possible that economic self-sufficiency may be more problematic in other periods and places
• Summary: A concern amongst policy-makers to identify high cost and low productivity populations has created a new interest in identifying those who experience adversities across the life course. This article outlines the development of conceptual understandings of families whose children experience multiple adversities and links this with later poor outcomes in adult life and examines some of the research challenges in establishing such linkages.
• Findings: It is argued that current thinking with regard to these issues reflects historical domains within which services to children and to adults are located. The challenge to domain thinking is both horizontal and vertical, policy being required to address the horizontal axis by co-ordinating planned approaches to multiple needs across services, and policy being necessary to address the vertical cleavage between children’s and adult services in ways which join up services across the life path; conceptually and practically acknowledging the links between child and adult experiences.
• Applications: Such policy developments will inevitably require social work to develop alternative paradigms for understanding the needs of children and adults and designing services to effectively meet these.
• Summary: This article uses the concept of citizenship to explore the recent mental health statutes within England and Wales and within Scotland. It argues that differences in the content, and practice context, herald a parting of the ways in mental health social work in the United Kingdom.
• Findings: The author focuses on three key differences: the reciprocity principle, the grounds for compulsory treatment and the place of social work within compulsory intervention to demonstrate how the statutes have led to more limited legal, procedural and social rights in England and Wales than in Scotland. The result for social work is that the practice context created in England and Wales may become more risk averse and that social work services may have a more residual role within statutory mental health work. The differences described in this article may also reflect increasing post-devolution divergence in the provision of social work services across the four countries that make up the United Kingdom.
• Applications: Further research is needed to explore if these divergences, within mental health law and policy, are in practice supporting or limiting citizenship.
• Summary: Injustice, oppression, and inequality affect human experience in all contexts. This article describes the problem of ‘disproportionate minority confinement’ in the United States juvenile justice system as one manifestation of such injustice. With specific focus on overrepresentation of African American males, the juvenile justice approach to this problem is contrasted with a critical social work perspective in the form of the human rights approach.
• Findings: Available data from all but one of the 50 United States indicate a disproportionate level of incarceration of youth classified as African American in juvenile justice facilities. Although the United States federal government enacted policy reforms in 1988 that require states which receive federal funds to decrease the proportion of minority youth who are incarcerated in secure facilities, few gains have been realized.
• Application: The author proposes that social workers employ a human rights approach to supplant the dominant juvenile justice paradigm. Application of human rights practice to disproportionate minority confinement suggests that social workers challenge the juvenile justice/social control discourse with a human rights/social change discourse; deconstruct the constructs of ‘disproportionate minority confinement’, ‘juvenile delinquency’, and ‘race’; challenge the expert/exclusionary problem-solving process with a dialogical/inclusionary process; challenge deficit-oriented activities with strength-based and asset-building activities; and introduce critical reflectivity into professional decision-making.
There are substantial variations in the way that applicants are selected for social work programmes in the UK and across the world. This article begins by reviewing the literature in this field, revealing debates about how effective and reliable are methods of assessment used during admission processes. It then describes a cross-sectional survey of new social work applicants ( n = 203) to two programme providers, describing demographic characteristics and their experiences of the admissions process.
A number of themes emerged from two sets of findings. There were variations in demographic characteristics, particularly in terms of gender and religion. The study was particularly interested in how students viewed the admissions process. Most students were satisfied with admissions processes, and there were some differences in views about the methods used. The article concludes by describing changes to the admissions system that were partly informed by the study. The article acknowledges the expected bias in the methodology, given that successful applicants were surveyed and not those who were not successful.
The authors discuss the study findings in the context of national and international literature and suggest that more rigorous attention should be paid to such evaluations to enable this important area of education and workforce development to be better understood.
• Summary: This study uses an integrative framework that includes various theories on delinquency to explain the relative contribution of factors on delinquency among Samoan adolescents and their overrepresentation in the Juvenile Justice System. Some 275 Samoan adolescents were recruited for the study from the states of Hawaii and Washington. Structural equation modeling was employed for the analysis.
• Findings: Two models were analyzed. One model tested all the factors regardless of economic status. The full model fits the data well. The other model utilized economic conditions as a moderating factor (multigroup model). The multigroup invariance shows that the measurement model appears to fit better with the higher income group rather than the lower income group. The results suggest that while acculturative stress has a direct impact on delinquency, family cohesion can be a deterrent to high acculturative stress on delinquency particularly for the higher income group. The major hypothesis was confirmed by the data to show that there was a predictive relationship between involvement with antisocial peers and delinquency, and prosocial peers and no delinquency. However, it varied by income group. The higher income group showed a stronger predictive relationship of the involvement with prosocial peers and low delinquency.
• Applications: Given the results, it is imperative for social workers to understand the impact of acculturation on family members and their family functioning. A better understanding of culture and how it operates within a family as well as an understanding of cultural identity is an important part of service to Samoan families.
• Summary: Focus groups and semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 parents from New Zealand who had adopted Russian born children. The aim of the research was to explore the ways in which parents establish and build their parenting and attachment relationships with their ‘new’ children.
• Findings: Findings revealed the immense commitment, child-centred focus, and conscious parenting of parents. The range of strategies used to build relationships and attachments included: quality time, play, touch and holding, and communication. Parents’ high levels of commitment were established through preparation to adopt, especially the acquisition of knowledge about and understanding of attachment issues. Support groups, notably other adoptive parents were also critical to enhancing relationships between children and their adoptive parents. Fathers were actively engaged in the process of building attachments.
• Applications: Intercountry adoptive parenting is a special kind of parenting, especially because of the challenges presented by children often neglected or abused prior to adoption. Helping prepare parents for both the rewards and challenges of intercountry adoption and supporting them post-adoption still needs to be improved by professional social work services. Acknowledgement of parents’ and children’s resilience and strengths that they bring to the new relationship will help create realistic expectations on the part of professionals and would-be adopters.
• Summary: The article reports findings from an audit of Serious Case Reviews into the death or harm of a vulnerable adult in England. Serious Case Reviews may be undertaken by local authorities in partnership with other agencies. There is little government guidance and practice appears variable.
• Findings: Interviews were undertaken in 2007 with persons who had been appointed to Chair Serious Case Reviews and with those who commissioned such Reviews or managed the process. The findings confirm the aspiration of such Reviews to be opportunities for learning from mistakes, if any, and to thereby offer greater safeguards for vulnerable adults. In practice however, the conduct of such Reviews may be difficult if there is a lack of cooperation, a lack of resources and if there is little opportunity to share findings and recommendations outside the locality.
• Application: This study supports the sharing of Serious Case Reviews to encourage learning from mistakes and missed opportunities to safeguard vulnerable adults. It also found agreement among those with experience in such Reviews that greater guidance on conduct and collaboration would be welcome.
• Summary: This article examines the processes and outcomes of adult protection referrals in two local authorities in England using adult protection monitoring data collected between 1998 and 2005, identifying learning for the use and development of adult protection monitoring.
• Findings: Associations were found between aspects of process and outcome in adult protection case management; police and regulatory agency involvement increased over time, over four-fifths of referrals resulted in investigations which were associated with higher levels of inter-agency involvement, abuse was confirmed for over two-fifths of referrals, there was significant territorial variation across a range of process and outcome measures and specialist adult protection coordinators were associated with higher levels of monitoring and post-abuse work. The study concluded that more work is needed to improve and standardize adult protection monitoring data if it is to more effectively inform case management and inter-authority comparisons.
• Applications: The evidence from the study suggests that adult protection monitoring data can be used to help review and organize adult protection work at agency, team and case levels and is consequently of potential value to team managers, social workers and specialist co-ordinators working in adult protection.
• Summary: The transformation of adult social care in England is underway, with the aim of promoting greater control and choice among people eligible for publicly funded social care services. A key part of personalization is the policy move to promote personal budgets. This article aims to investigate the inter-relation of personal budgets with another policy goal, adult safeguarding. A pilot programme of the predecessors of personal budgets, individual budgets, took place 2005–2008 and was evaluated by an independent research team. This article presents findings from the team’s second round of interviews with adult safeguarding coordinators (ASCs) in the 13 pilot sites held early 2008 which are discussed in the context of proposed adult safeguarding reforms in England.
• Findings: This second round of interviews with ASCs revealed greater engagement with social care transformation than previously. However, their detailed expertise in adult safeguarding and their local intelligence and experiences were not regularly accessed. This may constitute a missed opportunity to address some of the tensions of personalization in practice.
• Application: The interviews reveal that the personalization of social care is often interpreted as relating to greater use of Direct Payments and has yet to consider other facets of this policy transformation that are central to social work practice, including safeguarding.
• Summary: The evaluation of a project instigated by a voluntary group provided an opportunity to investigate the benefits of holiday breaks to both carers and participants. Feedback was obtained from over 100 people with intellectual disabilities through individual and group interviews, as well as from their carers using self-completed questionnaires.
• Findings: Overall, the breaks were thoroughly enjoyed by the project members, providing them with a range of activities and leisure pursuits in the company of their friends and, on certain breaks, with non-disabled people as well. Carers reported more benefits to their relative in the later years of the project and became more willing for their relative to attend.
• Applications: Three main issues are discussed: the use of mainstream settings and services, rather than specialist facilities, to provide short breaks; how best to encourage other carers of people with more significant needs to avail themselves of these opportunities; and ways of improving the social and leisure networks of people living with families so that the benefits of the ‘holiday’ experience could be recreated more locally and more frequently.
• Summary: This article explores the question of how human beings change, how change is constrained, and how change emerges out of and subsequently creates new forms of stability with adults. The emergence of Dynamic Systems Theories (DST) from developmental biology and neuroscience provide the tools to engage in such an understanding by attending to the issues of time, balance, influencing parameters (within person and sociocultural and material environments), and multiple adaptive and maladaptive pathways. DST provides the framework to understand the dynamic processes of bio-psychosocial factors that provide human beings with the stability and the flexibility to navigate the challenges and stressors of living. Complexity, the ability to experience inner continuity as one is changing, is a fluid balance that supports effective functioning.
• Findings: Key principles and concepts of DST describe multiple pathways of stability and change. A case example illustrates how DST helps social workers understand client experiences and responses to stressors, formulate initial and ongoing assessments, and monitor clients’ participation in change activities.
• Application: Social workers seek to help people who experience an imbalance due to an inability to effectively respond to the negative impact of a stressor. By understanding the various pathways of balance and imbalance along the continuum of continuity to change, social workers can better understand how stressors are impacting specific clients, and subsequently the kinds of change that would best assist each client.
• Summary: The role of social work has not, to date, been sufficiently explored in persuasive policy practice. This article draws upon messages from a study about the motivators used by educators to reach more privileged learners on issues of social justice. Applying messages to policy practice allows advocates to comprehensively craft advocacy practices that draw from these motivators, which have been shown to enlist support from more privileged power holders in social justice issues.
• Findings: This article confirms the importance of Goodman’s motivators (2000 , 2001 ) of empathy, values and beliefs, spirituality, and self-interest; a deeper complexity about how to effectively use these motivators is explored. The research reveals that another four categories of motivators can be added to persuasion strategies: guilt, anger, desire to create a legacy, and a universal yearning for justice.
• Applications: The contribution of this article is to advance the strategic dimensions of advocacy efforts undertaken by social workers. It seeks to inspire practitioners of the need to move away from a value-neutral position of social work (where practitioners avoid using their influence to obtain specific outcomes) to exploring the strategic value of being as persuasive as possible, in order to advance social justice among policy-makers.
• Summary: Domestic violence often directly and indirectly undermines the relationship between mothers and their children. This paper describes ‘the tactics of abuse’ that are instrumental in this damaging process and draws on previous research by one of the authors which shows that a conspiracy of silence can ensue, precluding talk of the abuse that women and children have experienced. The first stage of a four-year action research process designed to address some of these issues is discussed.
• Findings: Early findings show that those women and children living in refuges or using outreach services who chose to work together on activities have found the process beneficial. They have provided critical feedback about how the project and activities can be revised for the second action research cycle. The research also shows that not all women are ready to engage in this process when they enter a refuge, and it does require them to acknowledge that their children have been exposed to, and negatively affected by, domestic violence.
• Applications: The implications for social workers and specifically the need to provide active support for the mother-child relationship in the aftermath of domestic violence are discussed.