Social Work with Children and Families: Developing Advanced Practice

Social Work with Children and Families: Developing Advanced Practice

Social Work with Children and Families: Developing Advanced Practice

Social Work with Children and Families: Developing Advanced Practice


There is an increasing emphasis on post-qualifying training for social workers, especially in the complex and demanding area of working with children and families. This essential textbook is especially designed for practitioners studying at this level.

Accessible and thorough, the text focuses on a mixture of conceptual and organisational topics, skills, law, policy and key practice issues. It includes chapters on:

  • Social work values and ethics
  • Risk, uncertainty and accountability
  • Direct work with children and young people
  • Promoting security and stability
  • Working with reluctant service users
  • Assessment of parenting
  • Working with poverty, drugs and alcohol
  • Going to court and the legal framework
  • Children and young people going home
  • Supporting others in their professional development.

Using case studies and activities to link research, theory and practice, Social Work with Children and Familiestakes a wider look at the role and tasks of an experienced social work practitioner, and the skills and knowledge needed to develop professionally from this point.


Social work with children and families, and child protection social work in particular, is under review (Munro, 2010a; 2010b; 2011). One theme that has emerged strongly from that review process is the need to maintain a focus on the child throughout all social work interventions, to be ‘child centred’. This is not new; indeed it is arguable that social work has reached a point in its development where we are seeing many themes repeated (Dickens, 2011). The most significant of these recurring themes is perhaps the tension between the need for social work to contribute effectively to early intervention services for children in need and their families, and pressure to focus on the most vulnerable children, because of limited resources and high levels of demand for child protection services. This tension is played out at the level of the individual practitioner, who also needs to be skilled in balancing their work to support families with more assertive interventions to protect children when appropriate. While the preventive and protective roles are not incompatible, the heavy demands of protecting children mean that developing skills in preventive work have sometimes made it appear so. Negotiating this tension is a core skill for child and family social workers, and the organisations that employ them.

Social work is a relatively new profession, and is still working to define aspects of its special remit and expertise. At the same time, social work in Britain is facing additional challenges related to high turnover of staff, high levels of stress, and a challenging economic climate, which has an impact on the numbers of families under pressure, as well as the resources available to respond to the effects of that pressure on children and young people. This book cannot offer any panacea for these challenges.

What it does aim to do is to identify some of the key areas in which it is important for children and families that social workers have a good level of expertise, and explore ways in which social workers who already have some familiarity with these areas of practice can develop their competence. Competence in listening to children, reflecting on what they and other key people have to say, and helping to create a shared understanding as to how to achieve desired and improved outcomes are the bases for everything that child and family social workers do.

In Part I, I have also included a section on poverty. So many people who receive services from child and family social workers are affected by poverty. The relationship between social work and poverty is not a straightforward one. Social work is not primarily aimed at the alleviation of poverty, yet so many of the problems with which it deals are bound up with families’ experience of coping with daily ‘hassles’ that are in one way or another . . .

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