Child neglect is a difficult and complex area of practice for social workers and other childcare professionals. To work effectively, practitioners need a good grasp of relevant literature and research – a point underlined by the moves to incorporate ‘research mindedness’ and ‘research literacy’ into social work education, training and practice. This paper aims to contribute to the debate around research literacy by looking in more detail at the research and knowledge base informing work with neglected children and their families, and considering the ways in which this can be applied in practice.
In the first part of the paper, we provide a critical overview of the main aspects of research knowledge, summarizing ‘what we know’ currently about child neglect. Next, we look at some of the difficulties associated with this body of knowledge and at some of its limitations. Having noted these concerns, however, we go on to suggest ways in which the research evidence can be used in mainstream social work. We draw out some of the consequences for work with children and with their parents as well as considering the implications for social workers and their agencies.
Currently, there is no explicit requirement for qualifying level social workers to be skilled in communicating with children. In a recent Knowledge Review, we argued that practitioners should have a basic level of competence in such skill at the point of qualification. If that argument is accepted then how this should be acquired within the qualifying social work curriculum needs consideration. The authors present a framework for understanding those components of skilled communication with children that should be included in the qualifying curriculum. A whole programme approach to curriculum development will be outlined which, we suggest, might enable students to develop the knowledge, capabilities and values required for skilled practice in this area
A B S T R AC TTwenty years after survey evidence showed that UK social work students could complete their training without having learnt about or worked with children, new research suggests little has changed. There is still no guarantee that any student on qualification will have been taught about or assessed in communication skills with children and young people. This is despite the claim that the pre-registration award provides teaching and assessment in core generic skills as a foundation for the development of specialist practice roles in agencies. In fact, as this paper shows, a common understanding of what counts as effective communication with children has yet to be consolidated in social work practice and research. This has impeded the process of curriculum development. Divergent expectations about what counts as social work communication with children in a changing policy context may be exacerbating long-standing uncertainties about how genericism and specialism should be linked in professional education and training. In exploring these issues, this paper seeks to clear the way for the renewed effort that is now required if this aspect of curriculum development is to be effective.
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