18-20 April 2018 | University of Edinburgh

This pre-conference event will comprise two linked workshops which will explore key aspects of social work with children and families, with the purpose of exploring similarities and differences across Europe, and exploring potential ground for future research collaborations. 

Workshop 1: Researching child protection practices in Europe

The first one-hour workshop will explore the theme of ‘Researching child protection practices in Europe’. There will be two separate presentations (no more than 10 minutes each) from different countries which set out distinctive features and challenges of child protection within those countries, such as how laws, policies, historical, social and cultural influences shape the particular ways in which child protection is framed, practised and experienced by children and families. The workshop participants then have an opportunity to critically reflect on the presentations and share practices from their own jurisdictions. The full abstracts are in appendix.

•  Presentation 1: Researching Communication with younger children (0-12 years) in child welfare services (CWS) and protection practices. Wendy Eerdekens, Artevelde University College, Ghent, Belgium; Randi Juul and Inger Sofie Dahlø Husby, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway.

•  Presentation 2: Social work practice, emotions and Child protection work in Italy and England: a complex relationship. Alberto Poletti, University of Bedfordshire, UK.

Workshop 2: Creative methodologies for gaining children’s perspectives

The second one-hour interactive workshop will similarly comprise two separate presentations (no more than 10 minutes each) of how these researchers have used creative methodologies for gaining children’s perspectives on their lives and experiences. Workshop participants will be encouraged to explore together whether and how the creative methodologies might be useful within their own research practices, or whether alternative methods might similarly be useful.

• Presentation 3: Standing on one foot: Creative steps in research engagement (music and dance). Dr Alinka Gearon, University of Bath, UK

• Presentation 4: Communicative methodology. From Research ‘on’ to Research ‘with’. Miguel Ángel Pulido Rodríguez, Tarrés – Ramon Llull University, Barcelona, Spain. 

Appendix: Abstracts for the presentations

Presentation 1: Researching Communication with younger children (0-12 years) in child welfare services (CWS) and protection practices. Wendy Eerdekens, Artevelde University College, Ghent, Belgium; Randi Juul and Inger Sofie Dahlø Husby, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway.

Since 2014, Flanders child welfare in Flanders is mainly regulated by the Decree of Integrated youth care. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the indicator. The decree has 6 important aims, some of them client focused others result oriented. One of the aims is maximum participation of minors and their parents. In Flanders Youth Care participation means the right of every client (child, youngster, parent) to be involved and to be part of decision making. A participatory attitude of care givers is considered as crucial. The client and his network should be able to participate in the daily practice (his own case) and on a policy level (e.g. advisory board). All minors should participate in actual rights. There is no minimum age. Only for legal rights the child must be capable.

In Norway, the child welfare is mainly regulated by the child Welfare Act 1992, this means both child protection and family assistance. A leading principal in the decision-making is ‘the child’s best interests’. This involves reflections about child influence, particularly when the children is of young age. In 2003 the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child became incorporated in the Child Welfare Act. In deviation from the Convention, the government decided to make participation mandatory for children from the age of seven, and even younger children if capable. Participation from the Norwegian Child Welfare Act means to receive information, opportunity to state opinions and to be heard according to maturity. At the present child conversation is a hot topic among child welfare workers and some services train their worker to get better skilled in professional child communication. Similar it has become important in our own child welfare education at NTNU.

In practice field of both countries, we still see thresholds and challenges to involve the child, especially the minus 12 years old. Adults are balancing between protection and participation. In family counselling and social work with families, the younger the child, the more social workers work with the context and less with the child.

To involve younger children, we need other methods, also nonverbal, creative once. It demands to see children as actors and not merely as ‘not-yets’. We see more and more social workers using methods to facilitate the conversation and working with the child as a subject: in a dialogical and participatory way.

The evolution of more participation of younger children in child welfare brings up some questions that asks for more research.

- What theoretical perspectives are there in Child Welfare in Europe?

- What methods/methodological approaches are used to converse with younger children in Child Welfare?

- What is the position of the child in the method?

- What considerations and criteria are there for involving a child and ‘choosing’ a method? Is there need for a theoretical framework?

- How can students and professional become more confident and qualified in working with younger children?

- Can this be developed into a cross border project?

Presentation 2: Social work practice, emotions and Child protection work in Italy and England: a complex relationship. Alberto Poletti, University of Bedfordshire, UK.

In recent years there has been an increased focus on the role played by emotions in social work practice (Gausel, 2011; Littrell, 2009; Dwyer, 2007; Davies and Collings, 2008; Littlechild, 2008; Braescu, 2012; Gibson, 2013). Concepts like ‘emotional resilience’ and ‘emotional intelligence’ (Goleman, 2006; Grant and Kinman, 2012; Morrison, 2007; Ingram, 2012; Kinman and Grant, 2011) are now part of practitioners’ everyday language. Emotions, however, are also considered as being part of organisational goal-oriented behaviours (Ozmete, 2004; Davies, 2011; Hinshelwood, 2009; Hochschild, 1983; Rogoski, 2011). At the same time, it cannot be denied that the professionals’ ability to acknowledge, recognise and express their emotions, is deeply and inevitably interwoven with the broader emotional politics (Warner, 2014) of the child protection system within which they operate.

The presentation will utilise data gathered as part of a doctoral research, which was interested in obtaining a greater understanding on how professionals from two front-line child protection teams (one in England and one in Italy) mediated between the emotional demands of their job and the professional requirements of their work in order to practice safely and competently.

Using a psycho-social framework (Clarke & Hoggett, 2009; Hollway & Jefferson, 2012; Meltzer & Harris, 2012), the discussion will focus on the way in which the different texture of the ‘emotional politics’ (Warner, 2014) in the two chosen countries, shape professionals’ emotional responses and how those responses can potentially affect social workers’ ability to effectively protect vulnerable children.

Presentation 3:  Standing on one foot: Creative steps in research engagement (music and dance). Dr Alinka Gearon, University of Bath, UK

Deciding to undertake ‘child trafficking’ research with young people directly affected by trafficking brought a number of challenges in the research process. Not least was the difficulty in this kind of research not having been done before, requiring my research to be flexible and exploratory in what might work with this group of people.

I offer reflections on fieldwork and qualitative methods in accessing and engaging young people, focusing on creative arts-based methods. Not just celebrating what works, I look at what didn’t work and changes required in the field. The use of improvised dance is reflected upon as a specific method that built trust in the research relationship, strengthened social bonding between young people and facilitated research engagement in a very difficult and sensitive subject area. Creative methods assisted with accessing and listening to children and young people’s voice about being trafficked and how they experienced frontline services.

I have a visual presentation of developing creative methods in the research process. The presentation provides the context of my research, and how methods were used with children and young people (with photos of arts project). The focus is on key method of improvised dance and beats, as successful for engagement, building trust, fostering openness and self-expression. The presentation makes theoretical links between art and social science, the embodiment of sharing music and dance as enriching the research process and data. Highlighted as a novel method for communicating epistemology, supporting self-assertion and creativity. The method also attended to ethical considerations of power and cultural issues.

Presentation 4: Communicative methodology. From Research ‘on’ to Research ‘with’. Miguel Ángel Pulido Rodríguez, Tarrés – Ramon Llull University, Barcelona, Spain.

The focus of this presentation is on exploring ways of including the child’s and families’ voices in research projects using Communicative Methodology. This is a critical methodology used when seeking to transform situations of inequality and exclusion. Its principal methodological innovation is the generation of Dialogic Knowledge, merging knowledge from the International scientific community and the interpretations of social actors (in this case children and their families). New knowledge is achieved by involving end-users and stake-holders through from the design of the research to the interpretation of results. All of this helps to generate a knowledge constructed dialogically while contrasting knowledge from the scientific community and that arising from the experiences of the children and their families.

This methodology has been implemented in research projects of the 5th (Workalo), 6th (INCLUD-ED) and 7th framework programme (IMPACT-EV, EDUFAM, SALEACOM). It has resulted in generating successful ways of overcoming social exclusion, and recognising the Roma people as an European population without territory (a conclusion that has generated social policies to help better Roma people).