Falconer, Rachel (2019) Child protection decision-making and ethical engagement: a comparative analysis of social work practice in England and Finland. Doctoral thesis, Keele University.

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The decision to intervene in family life to protect a child necessitates weighing up ethical and legal considerations, a task shaped by the knowledge, skills and personal values of social workers and situated in organisational and local policy contexts. Recent comparative research has improved understanding of how national child protection systems operate, however less is known about how national contextual factors influence decision-making at the practice level. In view of this, this study explores how social workers in two nations, England and Finland, make child protection decisions and engage with ethical issues during this process.
The qualitative study involved interviews with 30 social workers in child protection agencies across England and Finland. Participants were asked to comment on two constructed case vignettes, each of which incorporated an ethical dimension, and were interviewed about their experiences of ethical dilemmas and decision-making in practice.
Similarities were observed in the English and Finnish participants’ responses to the vignettes. Ethical engagement was seen to vary at an individual level, although in general participants from both nations focused on presenting risk factors over the ethical aspects of the cases. The participants’ narratives further highlighted the significance of support networks in guiding decisions, with differences observed in the nature and extent of support provision across the samples.
The findings demonstrate the importance of decision-making environments, both national and organisational, in shaping child protection decisions. The study’s comparative lens reveals how practice is supported through different mechanisms in different national contexts, yet irrespective of the child protection system in place, support structures seem to be vital in helping social workers to negotiate the ethical complexities of practice. It is argued that strengthening these support structures, while fostering a culture of discussion and reflection, may help organisations to better integrate ethical engagement into everyday work processes.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social, Political and Global Studies
Contributors: Shardlow, SM (Thesis advisor)
Head, EL (Thesis advisor)
Depositing User: Lisa Bailey
Date Deposited: 08 Nov 2019 10:30
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2019 10:30
URI: https://eprints.keele.ac.uk/id/eprint/7156

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