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Br J Soc Work. 2016 Jun;46(4):1009-1026. Epub 2015 Mar 4.

Enacting Firm, Fair and Friendly Practice: A Model for Strengths-Based Child Protection Relationships?

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University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


Strengths-based solution-focused approaches are gaining ground in statutory child protection work, but few studies have asked front line practitioners how they navigate the complex worker-client relationships such approaches require. This paper describes one component of a mixed-methods study in a large Canadian statutory child protection agency in which 225 workers described how they applied the ideas of strengths-based practice in their daily work. Interviews with twenty-four practitioners were analysed using an interpretive description approach. Only four interviewees appeared to successfully enact a version of strengths-based practice that closely mirrored those described by key strengths-based child protection theorists and was fully congruent with their mandated role. They described navigating a shifting balance of collaboration and authority in worker-client relationships based on transparency, impartial judgement, attentiveness to the worker-client interaction and the value that clients were fellow human beings. Their accounts extend current conceptualisations of the worker-client relationship in strengths-based child protection work and are congruent with current understandings of effective mandated relationships. They provide what may be a useful model to help workers understand and navigate relationships in which they must reconcile their own authority and expertise with genuine support for the authority and expertise of their clients.


Child welfare; child protection; solution-focused; strengths-based; worker–client relationship

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