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Working Professionally with Children and Youth in Care

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International Journal of Child & Family Welfare

IFCFW

ISSN 1378-286X  /  Special Issue, 2017, Numbers 1-2

Table of contents and article abstracts

3  /  Conversational contexts: Investigating the dynamics of relationships between clients and professionals in child welfare  /  Annemiek T. Harder, Christopher J. Hall & Carolus H.C.J. van Nijnatten

The effectiveness of interventions has become an important object of scientific study in child welfare and often a prerequisite for funding of child welfare programmes. Many studies on the effectiveness of interventions aimed at supporting families at risk and behavioural change of youth have suggested that features of the relationship between professional and client, and the characteristics of the professional, are decisive for the interventions’ effectiveness. There are, however, few studies of what is important in terms of relational skills, personal characteristics or communication strategies. In this special issue, we focus on the dynamics of relationships between child welfare workers and clients (i.e. young people and/or their parents) by using direct observation and close analysis of naturally occurring processes. The contributions to this special issue have a ‘bottom up’ and a ‘top down approach’ in analysing relationships. The first part uses a ‘bottom up’ approach and reports on conversations between youth and family treatment parents in treatment homes. Using a ‘top down’ approach, the second part specifically focuses on Motivational Interviewing skills of care professionals in their interactions with youth. The third part covers the interactions between parents and professionals in the context of child protection using a ‘bottom up’ approach. 

10 /  Getting, receiving and holding attention: How adolescents’ telling initiatives work out in interaction with professional parents in family homes  /  Ellen Schep, Tom Koole & Martine Noordegraaf

This paper examines various ways in which adolescents during dinner table settings gain attention to start a telling varying from just a comment to storytelling. The settings are in family homes where professional parents run a household consisting of their biological children combined with a number of children and adolescents who are placed in that household for several years. Affective interaction between adolescents and their professional parents is important for the development of these youths. The method of Conversation Analysis has been used to analyse video data of dinner conversations in six households. These home situations were recorded by having cameras run every day from 4 pm to 7 pm over a period of three weeks. The telling initiations of the adolescents include verbal and embodied practices such as eye-gaze and body-movement in order to start a telling. The different kinds of initiations seem to produce different kinds of sequential responses from the professional parents. The analysis of the telling initiations by adolescents and the room they are given for these tellings is a contribution to the still limited knowledge about building and maintaining affective relationships between professional parents and adolescents in family home environments. 

27  /  Pedagogical anamnesis: How professional parents collect information from adolescents through conversation  /  Carolus H.C.J. van Nijnatten & Martine Noordegraaf

Parents often talk with their adolescent children to obtain information about their doings. They rely largely on these discussions to plan a pedagogical policy that fits the adolescents’ perspectives. In this study, we analysed conversations between professional parents and out-of-home-placed adolescents. The study is based on 15 parent-child interactions, coming from an analysis of over 300 hours of video-recordings in six family treatment homes in the Netherlands. Four practices of professional parents were distinguished: soliciting, sounding, suggesting and advising. Similar to physicians, parents negotiate with adolescents about the best way to deal with the problems in their lives rather than impose disciplinary measures. 

47  /  Can we reliably measure social work communication skills? Development of a scale to measure child and family social work direct practice  /  Charlotte E. Whittaker, Donald Forrester, Michael Killian & Rebecca K. Jones

Few attempts have been made to define and measure the effectiveness of social work communication skills. This paper describes a coding scheme for rating seven dimensions of skilled communication in child and family social work practice and presents an empirical evaluation of whether the dimensions can be coded for reliably. Four dimensions of skill were adapted from the Motivational Interviewing Treatment Integrity (MITI) code. A further three dimensions, primarily related to appropriate use of authority, were developed in consultation with key stakeholders. The seven dimensions were used to score 133 audio recordings of direct practice. Of these, 28 (21%) were scored by three independent raters in order to test inter-rater reliability (IRR). IRR was assessed using Krippendorff’s α and Intra-class correlation (ICC). Results indicate that it is possible to reliably measure key elements of skilled communication, with Krippendorff’s α scores ranging from .461 (good) to .937 (excellent) and ICC ranging from .731 (good) to .967 (excellent). Establishing reliability provides a foundation for exploring the validity of the measure and the relationship between these skills and outcomes, as well as for further research looking at the impact of training, supervision or other methods of professional development on skills in practice. The problems and potential contribution of using such an approach are discussed. 

64  /  Look who’s talking: A Motivational Interviewing based observation study of one-on-one conversations between residential care workers and adolescents  /  Annika Eenshuistra, Annemiek T. Harder, Neeltje L. van Zonneveld & Erik J. Knorth

Despite its relevance and effectiveness in adjoining fields, still surprisingly little attention has been paid to Motivational Interviewing (MI) in the context of residential youth care. This study aims to analyse observed interactions between adolescents and group care workers during one-on-one conversations from a MI perspective. We specifically focused on the MI adherent and MI non-adherent behaviours of care workers on the one hand, and motivation for change in terms of ‘change talk’ and ‘sustain talk’ by adolescents on the other. Audio recordings of 27 conversations show that care workers most often use the MI non-adherent behaviours ‘persuasion without permission’ and ‘confronting’ when they try to change adolescents’ attitudes or behaviours. MI adherent behaviours, i.e. ‘being affirming’, ‘seeking collaboration’ with and ‘emphasizing autonomy’ of the adolescent, are rarely used during the conversations. In terms of motivation for change, adolescents equally use ‘change talk’ and ‘sustain talk’ and often respond ‘neutrally’ to care workers. ‘Change talk’ and ‘sustain talk’ by the adolescent does not consistently follow MI adherent and non-adherent behaviours of care workers, and vice versa. The results suggest that MI training of care workers and more research on MI in residential youth care is wanted. 

85  /  Managing arguments in social work encounters  /  Tessa Verhallen, Christopher J. Hall, Stef Slembrouck & Steve Kirkwood

Meetings between social workers and clients in child protection are highly sensitive and frequently contested. Much is at stake in terms of protecting identities and ultimately possibly child removal. It is not surprising then that disagreements occur and strong positions are defended in encounters between social workers and clients. In this paper, the authors use a combination of a case study approach and micro sequential analysis. The case study approach captures how arguments are produced and managed across successive social work encounters over a longer period of time. Additionally, the sequential analysis of one encounter demonstrates the relevance of discourse and conversation analytic concepts such as categorization, entitlement and accountability for a more detailed understanding of how argument and disagreement manifest themselves interactionally. The interactional sequence involves a family supervisor and a mother in the Netherlands. The paper examines key features of an argument in the context of child protection and engages with the interactional consequences for both worker and client. By providing insight into how arguments unfold over successive social work encounters, the paper contributes to an understanding of how stalemate positions come about and are resolved (or not). Adding to the picture, a detailed understanding of the real-time management of disagreement in interaction is useful in fostering social work practitioners’ awareness of how argumentative “logics” may be taking over. 

105  /  The problem of participation in child protection conferences: An interactional analysis  /  Juliet Koprowska

Engagement between parents and child protection services is a matter of widespread importance, yet often hard to achieve. Child protection policy in England and Wales has emphasized participation and partnership for nearly 40 years, including parental attendance at child protection conferences. This paper reports analysis of the talk during the early stages of 12 initial child protection conferences using conversation analysis (CA). It highlights variable practices in managing introductions, and discomfort in discussing parents’ shortcomings and strengths. It provides new insights into strategies used by professionals to mitigate this discomfort, including indirect speech, politeness strategies and what I term narratives of redemption. The paper introduces a new concept, reference switching, where social workers switch between talking about a family to addressing them. Families, meanwhile, employ strategies of justification and recategorization. The paper proposes experimental changes to professionals’ talk, to reduce ambiguity, improve the emotional climate and increase family engagement.

 

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