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Improving child safety: deliberation, judgement and empirical research

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If you are working in child protection or child welfare making decisions that affect children, young people and their families, or deciding how to organise the local child welfare system, or what programmes to provide in your area, this book is intended for you. It aims to help you deliberate about what you should do to predict more reliably the outcomes of interventions you might be considering and to recognise what evidence you will need for these tasks and how judgement is central to doing them well. Our discussion grows out of systematic research and scholarship but this is no scholarly tome. It aims to be of help to real practitioners and managers making real decisions about real children and young people and wanting to think about how to do this better.
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... I beslutninger, der traeffes i en gruppe, er bias en specifik udfordring, der betegnes "groupthink" (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). I vaerste fald kan groupthink få gruppen af sagsbehandlere til at traeffe upraecise og direkte forkerte beslutninger (Eileen Munro, 1999;Eileen Munro, Cartwright, Hardie, & Montuschi, 2017). Den begraensede viden, vi har fra danske undersøgelser om gruppebeslutninger, viser desuden, at beslutnings-møder ofte er tidspressede og ustrukturerede; dagsordenen er sammensat tilfaeldigt, der bliver ikke husket fra møde til møde, og der er mere fokus på at handle end på at afklare børn og unges behov for hjaelp (Ebsen, Hansen, & Justesen, 2004). ...
... Det kan betyde, at den enkelte sagsbehandler lader sig overbevise om en bestemt retning for indsatsen overfor et udsat barn, selvom han eller hun har informationer om barnet, der peger i en anden retning. Det modsatte kan imidlertid også opstå i gruppesammenhaenge -nemlig at sagsbehandleren laegger sig fast på en tolkning af barnets situation og fastholder den på trods af, at nyere informationer og gruppens teoretiske argumenter peger i en anden retning (Eileen Munro, 1998;Eileen Munro et al., 2017). ...
... Projektet hviler på en forståelse af, at sagsbehandlere udvikler beslutningsmønstre for at reducere kompleksiteten af beslutningen, og på den måde gør det muligt at handle -og i de fleste tilfaelde at handle fornuftigt ud fra de udsatte børn og unges behov, deres foraeldre, samarbejdet med andre professionelle parter, kommunens økonomi, normerne i afdelingen og ikke mindst de lovregler, som gaelder på området (Eileen Munro et al., 2017;Saltiel, 2016;Svendsen, Ebsen, Ejrnaes, & Bengtsson, 2017). Det er muligheden for at begraense uhensigtsmaessige konsekvenser af disse beslutningsmønstre, projektet skal undersøge i et mindre kvalitativt studie. ...
Research
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In this research report we present our reflections from a qualitative, small test of a tool aimed at de-biasing group decision-making. The tool was tested in the setting of team-based decision-making processes in a Danish child protection agency. In this setting decision-making does not follow a linear, rational path and sometimes a tendency for overoptimism might be what drives the decision to the next step of helping a family. Consequently, more than testing the usefulness of a de-biasing tool, informed by behavioral economy, the report resultet in reflections about the roles of biases in decision-making and the limits of emphasising de-biasing as a "good" result.
... 9 Toda esta discusión permite entrever un hecho que puede sonar obvio, pero que a pesar de ello se escapa del sentido común básico en muchas discusiones sobre la PBE: la evidencia no representa una propiedad intrínseca de un dato, un indicador, un estimador estadístico o una anécdota que recupera el investigador durante el trabajo de campo. Por tanto, tiene poco sentido hablar de bancos de evidencias para referirnos a un cuerpo neutral de información que reposa en un archivo, una página de internet o en las bases de datos de agencias nacionales e internacionales (Munro et al. 2016). X solo puede servir de envidencia de Y cuando alguien toma la decisión de que X es relevante para su proceso de deliberación sobre los mecanismos detrás de la existencia de Y. Puesto en términos algo más formales, "la relevancia evidencial es entonces una relación de tres elementos. ...
... Desde una teoría generativa de la causalidad, según la cual existen circunstancias o condiciones específicas que llevan a que dos eventos sociales guarden una relación causal entre sí (por ejemplo, las habilidades de los docentes y los resultados de aprendizaje de un estudiante), 13 las características (o propiedades) del contexto donde se despliega una política o programa serán determinantes en el cumplimiento, o no, de sus objetivos. Por ejemplo, si bien en algunas culturas el enviar a padres de familia a clases sobre la crianza puede incidir en el mejoramiento del comportamiento de sus hijos, en otras, quizas más machistas, los hombres pueden sentirse humillados públicamente y reaccionar violentamente contra miembros de su hogar (Munro et al. 2016). En el caso del manejo macroeconómico de un país, puede que un aumento en la oferta monetaria no incida en un incremento de la inflación, según predice el monetarismo, debido a arreglos institucionales específicos (como la confianza en la regulación bancaria) bajo los cuales interactuan sus ciudadanos (Reiss 2018). ...
Article
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Objetivo/contexto: son cada vez más las voces críticas sobre la idoneidad de prácticas dominantes en la evaluación de intervenciones sociales (por ejemplo, las RCT) frente al objetivo de informar políticas basadas en evidencia. Este artículo se enfoca en dos elementos centrales de dicha reflexión: i) la evidencia, como concepto y como resultado de un proceso de razonamiento; y ii) la noción de validez externa. Metodología: el uso de literatura en los campos de la evaluación y de la filosofía del conocimiento me permite hacer una deconstrucción del concepto de causalidad en las ciencias sociales. A partir de este ejercicio, y de la distinción entre teorías de causalidad sucesionista y generativa, identifico criterios para examinar críticamente algunos postulados epistemológicos implícitos en argumentos de exponentes de las técnicas experimentales de evaluación. Conclusiones: las técnicas experimentales no permiten, por sí mismas, informar decisiones sobre cómo invertir recursos de forma eficiente. Pese a su fortaleza para cuantificar posibles efectos causales, es necesario complementar el análisis estadístico contrafactual con formas de razonamiento cualitativo conducentes a solucionar interrogantes sobre las causas eficaces detrás del resultado de intervenciones sociales, y los factores de soporte que podrían permitir pensar en la extrapolación de políticas o programas sociales entre diferentes contextos. Originalidad: la literatura en español sobre críticas y alternativas a las técnicas de evaluación de impacto es escasa. Más que presentar un resumen de argumentos de otros autores, este artículo construye una narrativa coherente para repensar el papel de la evaluación en la sociedad.
... As a case of frontline work, child welfare A c c e p t e d M a n u s c r i p t 9 services present a high-stakes environment with high levels of uncertainty and complexity, prolonged interactions with citizen-clients, and considerable room for discretion. Scholars in the field have highlighted the need to improve decision-making in child welfare and point to deliberation and peer supervision as valuable tools in this regard (Munro et al. 2017;Ebsen 2018;Golia and McGovern 2015;Iversen and Heggen 2016;Skivenes and Tonheim 2015;Forkby and Höjer 2011). These characteristics make child welfare a case well-suited for exploring the role of deliberation in frontline work with the aim of generating fresh theoretical insights (Flyvbjerg 2011). ...
... Danish child welfare workers are granted considerable professional discretion and rely on standardized tools and programs to a lesser degree than their peers in other countries, which could mean that they engage in deliberation more often. Yet, deliberation and collective uses of discretion is a recognized feature of child welfare work across national contexts (Ebsen 2018;Munro et al. 2017). In the case of child welfare, the issue is thus not whether deliberation occurs, but why, when, and how. ...
Article
Deliberation is a widely recognized but understudied aspect of frontline decision-making. This study contributes to theory development by exploring deliberative practices in frontline organizations and their implications for decision-making. Drawing on a multi-sited ethnographic study in three Danish child welfare agencies, the analysis clarifies the multiple purposes of deliberation in everyday practice and shows how deliberation is enabled and structured by formalized and informal deliberative organizational routines. Findings show that deliberation may influence individual decision-making or amount to collective decision-making. Depending on how deliberative organizational routines are enacted, deliberation may serve to enhance professional judgment, ensure appropriate justification for decisions and alleviate uncertainty and emotional strain. Yet, while deliberation represents a productive form of collective coping, deliberative routines may also obscure transparency and reify dysfunctional group dynamics. A conceptual framework is developed to support further research into the purposes, practices, and implications of deliberation across diverse street-level contexts.
... Professionals should not, of course, draw mindlessly on the contribution of research in supporting practice decision-making, without questioning the validity of the evidence (Munro et al., 2017;Holden and Barker, 2018). However, the retrieval of digital information has now become an everyday fact of life. ...
Article
Skills of the 'information age' need to be applied to social work. Conceptual and practical aspects of using online bibliographic databases to identify research were explored using multi-professional decision-making in child protection as a case study. Five databases (Social Science Citation Index, Scopus, Medline, Social Work Abstracts and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials) were searched for relevant studies, retrieving 6,934 records of which fifty-eight studies were identified as relevant. The usefulness of specific search terms and the process of learning from the terminology of previous searches are illustrated, as well as the value of software to manage retrieved studies. Scopus had the highest sensitivity (retrieving the highest number of relevant articles) and retrieved the most articles not retrieved by any other database (exclusiveness). All databases had low precision on this topic, despite extensive efforts in selecting search terms. Cumulative knowledge about search strategies and empirical comparison of database utility helps to increase the efficiency of systematic literature searching. Such endeavours encourage and support professionals to use the best available evidence to inform practice and policy.
... As such, policy decisions are complex activities, where judgement and deliberation play a key role. 16 Thus, we might be better to embrace the fact that human judgement is involved in any policy decision-making process than to rely on vague appeals to science. Making such judgement explicit when engaging the public could go far to engender trust, both in the political process and in science. ...
... The variation in child welfare systems is relevant when discussing risk since the definition and perception of risk is inherent within the system in which it appears. Irrespective of the child welfare system, determining the risk of a child is a difficult task, as it has to do with predictions of human nature rather than verifiable facts (Munro, 2008;Munro, Cartwright, Hardie, & Montuschi, 2016). Historically, risk referred to the probability of something happening, while in the present connotation risk denotes a potential future negative outcome (Beck, 1992;Calder & Archer, 2016;Lupton 2013). ...
Article
Decision-making in child protection is often understood as the final step in the process of risk, assessment and decision-making. However, when working with referrals about children at risk, decisions are also made a lot earlier when someone decides whether to refer a child to child welfare services or not. The risk assessments made by child welfare case workers are restricted by assessments and decisions made by professionals working with the child on a day-to-day basis. This article presents an empirical study of 511 referrals received by two local authorities in Denmark. The study investigates the information presented in the referrals in order to get an understanding of what child protection case workers must work with when assessing the risk of children referred to child welfare services. The study shows that 80% of referrals are made by various professionals and the majority of referrals concern older children (more than 10 years old). The content of the referrals shows differences in perceptions of risk depending on professional backgrounds, which leads to the development of five hypothesis about how and why referrals are made. (1) frontline professionals make referrals because they are required to do so according to Danish legislation, (2) some frontline professionals are reluctant to make decisions about how to help children at risk and referrals are a way of passing the decision-making on to the child welfare case workers, (3) some referrals are in essence applications for increased resources by frontline professionals for example in public schools, (4) the use of referral templates does not always make sense to the professionals using them and (5) the perception of risk may be influenced by the reporter’s own perception of risk and class in society.
Book
Hensikt og problemstilling: Akutt tvangsvedtak med hjemmel i § 4–6, annet ledd i lov om barneverntjenester er et av de mest inngripende tiltak barneverntjenesten kan benytte. Vedtaket medfører at barnet umiddelbart flytter ut av hjemmet mot foreldrenes vilje. Utforskning av saksforløpet i slike saker har vært avhandlingens overordnede problemstilling som jeg belyser gjennom to deltema: – Hvordan arbeider barneverntjenesten seg fram mot beslutningen i akutte tvangssaker? – Hvordan arter den eventuelle medvirkningen seg for barn og foreldre i det akutte saksforløpet? Avhandlingens problemstilling er altså knyttet opp mot utforskning av barneverntjenestens vurdering av barnets omsorgssituasjon når den treffer akuttvedtaket og oppfølging av barn og foreldre videre i saksforløpet. Metode: Datagrunnlaget er transkriberte tekster fra semistrukturerte intervjuer med ansatte i 16 kommunale barneverntjenester i Norge og fire tilsvarende tjenester (Jugendamt) i Tyskland. I de norske sakene er i tillegg anonymiserte dokumenter fra fylkesnemnda og tingretten re-presentert. 29 akuttsaker, 22 norske og sju tyske, inngår i datagrunnlaget. Tekstene er analysert med tre ulike kvalitative analysemetoder: Systematic text condensation (STC), thematic analysis (TA) og constructivist Grounded Theory. Resultater: Et hovedfunn er at barneverntjenesten, fra den får melding om bekymring og til den treffer akuttvedtaket, arbeider seg fram langs to beslutningsspor: Det raske og det langsomme hastesporet. Sporene indikerer også at det er ulike terskler for barneverntjenestenes bruk av akuttvedtak. Begge hastespor består av akuttsaker som lar seg gruppere i sakstyper. I det raske sporet er de som saken direkte gjelder ukjente for barneverntjenesten. I det langsomme kjenner ofte barneverntjenesten barnet og familien fra tidligere, men har ikke kommet i posisjon til å iverksettetiltak. Et trekk ved sakene, uavhengig av hvilket spor de følger, er at be-slutningen om akuttvedtak og plasseringen av barnet skjer svært raskt og som regel uten at familien er forberedt eller underrettet i forkant. Sammenligningen av tysk og norsk akuttpraksis viser at det er kontraster på følgende områder: brukermedvirkning og innflytelse, akuttplasseringens lengde og familiens posisjon. Når det gjelder bruker-medvirkning, indikerer datagrunnlaget at tyske barn og foreldre har et tydelig og gjennomgående eierforhold til sin egen akuttsak. En konsekvens er at barn og ungdom i de tyske sakene er tilbøyelige til å ha en mindre omstendelig vei om de ønsker å avslutte akuttplasseringen. Det er også et trekk ved de tyske akuttplasseringene i datagrunnlaget at de kan ha et kortere forløp sammenlignet med de norske. Når det gjelder barn og særlig ungdoms medvirkning i akuttforløpet, er et hovedfunn at barn og ungdom både medvirker og har medinnflytelse på beslutningen om å treffe akuttvedtaket. Barnet skaper troverdighet i akuttforløpet ved verbal kommunikasjon og ulike kroppslige formidlingsformer. For foreldre er situasjonen nærmest omvendt. Sammenlignet med barnet legger barneverntjenesten gjennomgående mindre vekt på foreldrenes synspunkter. Konklusjon: Både barneverntjenesten og Jugendamt legger vekt på barnets medvirkning og innflytelse når akuttvedtaket treffes. Selv om det norske barnet seinere bringer inn nyanser eller nye momenter, preger i stor grad det barnet formidlet i det første møtet med barneverntjenesten akuttforløpet. Jugendamt gir barnet tydeligere medinnflytelse også etter at akuttvedtaket er truffet. I tillegg indikerer datagrunnlaget at Jugendamt, i større grad enn barneverntjenesten, benytter akuttvedtaket til å initiere hjelpetiltak i familien. Studien peker på at den norske barneverntjenesten, ved i større grad å ta hensyn til både barnets og foreldrenes rettigheter, kan utvikle en mer balansert akuttpraksis.
Article
This chapter calls for researchers to reconceptualize research quality from the perspective of its expected use, attending to power dynamics that influence how knowledge is defined, constructed, and validated through the research enterprise. Addressing these concerns when designing and conducting education research can yield more useful research evidence for building more equitable education systems. Anchored in scholarship on research utilization and methodological critiques, the chapter introduces a research quality framework that integrates relevance and rigor through five key dimensions of Research Worth Using: (1) relevance of question: alignment of research topics to practical priorities; (2) theoretical credibility: explanatory strength and coherence of principles investigated; (3) methodological credibility: internal and external credibility of study design and execution; (4) evidentiary credibility: robustness and consistency of cumulative evidence; and (5) relevance of answers: justification for practical application. This framework simultaneously uplifts the voices and needs of policymakers, practitioners, and community members, while elevating standards for excellence in education research. We call attention to the myriad ways in which the quality of evidence generated can be strengthened, before describing implications for curating and using research. We conclude by offering suggestions for applying and further developing the framework.
Article
Rationale, Aims, and Objectives Though strong evidence‐based medicine is assertive in its claims, an insufficient theoretical basis and patchwork of arguments provide a good case that rather than introducing a new paradigm, EBM is resisting a shift to actually revolutionary complexity theory and other emergent approaches. This refusal to pass beyond discredited positivism is manifest in strong EBM's unsuccessful attempts to continually modify its already inadequate previous modifications, as did the defenders of the Ptolemaic astronomical model who increased the number of circular epicycles until the entire epicycle‐deferent system proved untenable. Methods Narrative Review. Results The analysis in Part 1 of this three part series showed epistemological confusion as strong EBM plays the discredited positivistic tradition out to the end, thus repeating in a medical sphere and vocabulary the major assumptions and inadequacies that have appeared in the trajectory of modern science. Paper 2 in this series examines application, attending to strong EBM's claim of direct transferability of EBM research findings to clinical settings and its assertion of epistemological normativity. EBM's contention that it provides the “only valid” approach to knowledge and action is questioned by analyzing the troubled story of proposed hierarchies of the quality of research findings (especially of RCTs, with other factors marginalized), which falsely identifies evaluating findings with operationally utilizing them in clinical recommendations and decision‐making. Further, its claim of carrying over its normative guidelines to cover the ethical responsibilities of researchers and clinicians is questioned.
Article
The inner core of child protection – on coercive placement motivated by abuse or neglectThis article is about emergency placement due to child abuse or neglect. Empirical data consists of judgements on coercive care in three administrative courts (n=211). Motives for placements are analysed against the background of the discursive changes that have taken place with regard to definitions of child abuse as well as today’s strong focus on risk and risk assessments. Results show that there were a number of motives to justify the court’s decision in each individual case. However, the broadening of the concept of abuse in research and in general discourse is evident in the judgements. We raise the question whether this matter, in practice, has resulted in more children being cared for because of an expansion of the concept of violence. As for risk assessments, two types of causal reasoning can be identified: situations where the child has been abused or neglected and where the risk assessment is about the probability that the problems will continue, and situations where the child has not been harmed but risks being harmed in the future. However, risk assessments are not that elaborate and systematic as presupposed in legislation. Taken together, the findings call for a discussion both within the justice system and in social work.
Book
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This book presents a theory with the ambition of both describing and explaining the nature of social-work practice. It is the first book that presents an explanative theory developed specifically from and for social-work practice. One of the fundamental questions is: How can we explain how results in social-work practice emanate from social worker's and clients' actions under certain contextual conditions? The theory presented in this book is named CAIMeR, which means that it takes a systematic and coherent approach to the theory of Contexts, Actors, Interventions, Mechanisms and Results. The meta-theoretical basis is critical realism, where a key feature is the concept of generative mechanisms. This perspective can help us capture the often unobservable powers that explain how results in social work emerge as a consequence of interventions and contextual conditions. The book also presents a domain theory that explains how social workers' professional practice is conditioned by politics, management and institutional conditions. This book is essential reading for students in social work and adjoining disciplines, but also for researchers, managers and professional social workers. https://amzn.to/2GkyCKN
Article
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How does science enter policy making, and for what purpose? Surely consulting scientific facts in making policy is done with a view to making policy decisions more reliable, and ultimately more objective. In this paper I address the way/s by which science contributes to achieving objectivity in policy making and social debate, and argue that objectivity is not exhausted by what scientific evidence contributes to either. In policy making and social debates, scientific evidence is taken into account alongside other relevant factors (political, social, economic, ethical, etc.). Such complex contexts of practical interaction constitute a challenge both for the objectivity of scientific evidence (how far should science let extra-scientific factors interfere with scientific facts, without endangering the objectivity of evidence?), and for the objectivity of the role of the scientist in the policy-making process (is he/she only to inform policy, and only on matters of scientific evidence? Or should they also ultimately advise on what to do, running the risk of becoming partial on matters of evidence?) I analyse a case study - the ongoing debate over the spread of bovine TB in the UK - that displays some of the worries and several of the aspects we ought to keep in mind when we bring scientific objectivity to bear on social debate and policy making. I argue in favour of a picture where scientific objectivity enters a productive and effective dialogue with practical objectivity.
Book
For several decades, social work and child protection systems have beensubject to accelerating cycles of crisis and reform, with each crisis involving intense media and political scrutiny. In understanding the nature and causes of this cycle, little attention has been paid to the importance of collective emotions. Using a range of cases from the UK, and also considering cases from the Netherlands, the US and New Zealand, this book introduces the concept of emotional politics. It shows how collective emotions, such as anger, shame, fear and disgust, are central to constructions of risk and blame, and are generated and reflected by official documents, politicians and the media. The book considers strategies for challenging these ‘emotional politics’, including identifying models for a more politically engaged stance for the social work profession.
Book
Over the last twenty or so years, it has become standard to require policy makers to base their recommendations on evidence. That is now uncontroversial to the point of triviality—of course, policy should be based on the facts. But are the methods that policy makers rely on to gather and analyze evidence the right ones? In Evidence-Based Policy, Nancy Cartwright, an eminent scholar, and Jeremy Hardie, who has had a long and successful career in both business and the economy, explain that the dominant methods which are in use now—broadly speaking, methods that imitate standard practices in medicine like randomized control trials—do not work. They fail, Cartwright and Hardie contend, because they do not enhance our ability to predict if policies will be effective. The prevailing methods fall short not just because social science, which operates within the domain of real-world politics and deals with people, differs so much from the natural science milieu of the lab. Rather, there are principled reasons why the advice for crafting and implementing policy now on offer will lead to bad results. Current guides in use tend to rank scientific methods according to the degree of trustworthiness of the evidence they produce. That is valuable in certain respects, but such approaches offer little advice about how to think about putting such evidence to use. Evidence-Based Policy focuses on showing policymakers how to effectively use evidence. It also explains what types of information are most necessary for making reliable policy, and offers lessons on how to organize that information.