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Learning about Childrens Identities: Social work practice with Looked after Children Jane Thomas 26 th June 2008.

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Presentation on theme: "Learning about Childrens Identities: Social work practice with Looked after Children Jane Thomas 26 th June 2008."— Presentation transcript:

1 Learning about Childrens Identities: Social work practice with Looked after Children Jane Thomas 26 th June 2008

2 Research Aim Methodology The aim of this research is to promote a deeper theoretical understanding, from a social constructionist perspective, of how social work professionals configure children and their identities within one specific area of statutory child protection social work, the Core Assessment. The aim of this research is to promote a deeper theoretical understanding, from a social constructionist perspective, of how social work professionals configure children and their identities within one specific area of statutory child protection social work, the Core Assessment. A case study approach will pursue a largely qualitative methodology. A case study approach will pursue a largely qualitative methodology. Textual analysis of the assessment documents will be followed by interviews with practitioners and practitioner questionnaires. Parent/carers are invited to partake in interviews. A multi-method approached will be employed to ascertain the views of children. Textual analysis of the assessment documents will be followed by interviews with practitioners and practitioner questionnaires. Parent/carers are invited to partake in interviews. A multi-method approached will be employed to ascertain the views of children. The study will be informed conceptually by a grounded theory approach. The study will be informed conceptually by a grounded theory approach.

3 Research Sample All core assessments completed between January and June 2006 within one local authority childcare team (28 assessments:32 children). All core assessments completed between January and June 2006 within one local authority childcare team (28 assessments:32 children). All practitioner/author of the assessments undertook semi- structured interviews (13 interviews). All practitioner/author of the assessments undertook semi- structured interviews (13 interviews). 10 practitioners completed post-interview questionnaires (3 non- returns). 10 practitioners completed post-interview questionnaires (3 non- returns). 13 semi-structured interviews with parent/carers of subject children (caring for 15 children). 13 semi-structured interviews with parent/carers of subject children (caring for 15 children). 11 children agreed to partake in a multi-method approach (1 child withdrawn by carer). 11 children agreed to partake in a multi-method approach (1 child withdrawn by carer).

4 Sample Characteristics Assessments: 13 freestyle narrative assessments, 8 self-titled Comprehensive Assessments and 7 assessments using agency template. Assessments: 13 freestyle narrative assessments, 8 self-titled Comprehensive Assessments and 7 assessments using agency template. Assessment length: range 7-86 pages (mean 27.8 pgs, mode 17 pgs). Assessment length: range 7-86 pages (mean 27.8 pgs, mode 17 pgs). Combined Assessments: 4 comprehensive assessments considered sets of 2 siblings. Combined Assessments: 4 comprehensive assessments considered sets of 2 siblings. Subject Children: 18 boys and 14 girls. Subject Children: 18 boys and 14 girls. Age range evenly spread with the exception of 15+ age group. Age range evenly spread with the exception of 15+ age group.

5 Table 1: Ages of children subject to assessment Age of child No. of assessments

6 Table 2: Parent/Carer Sample Parent/Carer Type No. of Participants Resident Mother 2 Non-resident mother 4 Non-resident father 3 Resident Grandmother 2 Resident Grandfather 2

7 Findings 1: The Art of Assessing Identities Practitioner preference for informality (direct work) and flexibility Practitioner preference for informality (direct work) and flexibility Its about getting into the real environment Building on the mundane and intimateIts about getting into the real environment Building on the mundane and intimate Theyve got their own different ways and that and thats what I call their identity Theyve got their own different ways and that and thats what I call their identity

8 Findings 1: Written Accounts of Identities Lack of explicit sources of evidence compared to other sections (i.e.. Health) Lack of explicit sources of evidence compared to other sections (i.e.. Health) Narrative accounts: practitioners asknowers Narrative accounts: practitioners asknowers The use of theory: relationality and concepts The use of theory: relationality and concepts

9 Example 1: Dominics Identity Section Dominic presents as a caring child who is aware that he is the eldest of 3 siblings. Dominic presents as being very confused and angry about his position within his family. He seems unclear about his role as either the man of the house or a child having no male role model and the need to crave attention from his mother as a child. He understands and can name the members of his family but after witnessing a considerable amount of both physical and emotional abuse Dominic manipulates relationships with family members to get his own way. In doing this Dominic can become quite aggressive and place him and others at risk. Dominic presents as a caring child who is aware that he is the eldest of 3 siblings. Dominic presents as being very confused and angry about his position within his family. He seems unclear about his role as either the man of the house or a child having no male role model and the need to crave attention from his mother as a child. He understands and can name the members of his family but after witnessing a considerable amount of both physical and emotional abuse Dominic manipulates relationships with family members to get his own way. In doing this Dominic can become quite aggressive and place him and others at risk. Dominic, age 13 years. Core Assessment 10. Dominic, age 13 years. Core Assessment 10.

10 Findings 2: Constructing Identities Managing uncertainty Managing uncertainty Paraphrasing practice guidelines Paraphrasing practice guidelines Identity as fluid, multi-faceted and dynamic Identity as fluid, multi-faceted and dynamic Identity as a separate assessment category? Identity as a separate assessment category?

11 Findings 2: Constructing Identities (cont.) The child within the family: the importance of familial relationships The child within the family: the importance of familial relationships Childrens self-esteem: 9 out of 11 assessments described problems Childrens self-esteem: 9 out of 11 assessments described problems National & cultural identities (5 assessments) National & cultural identities (5 assessments) Religious & spiritual identities (2 assessments) Religious & spiritual identities (2 assessments) Influences on identities: parenting experience & social work intervention Influences on identities: parenting experience & social work intervention

12 Findings 3: Constructing Childhoods Incomplete Identities? Growing & Developing Incomplete Identities? Growing & Developing The growth of individuality The growth of individuality Dualities Dualities Standardisation and Categorisation Standardisation and Categorisation

13 Findings 4: And I felt like screaming then, this is my child. This is what he is like! Partnership? Participation? Or passivity? Partnership? Participation? Or passivity? Focus on individuality: She dont know him as well as we do Focus on individuality: She dont know him as well as we do It was too brief, it was too textbook It was too brief, it was too textbook The audience of the assessment The audience of the assessment

14 Conclusion & Implications for Practice Accepting Uncertainty Accepting Uncertainty The value of creativity The value of creativity Parents/carers as experts Parents/carers as experts Acknowledging Individuality Acknowledging Individuality Refocusing child-friendly assessments Refocusing child-friendly assessments


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