Doing the right thing? (Re) Considering risk assessment and safety planning in child protection work with domestic violence cases

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Children and Youth Services Review, 47(1): 92-101

The concepts of risk and safety are central to social work practice with survivors of violence against women. Little is known, however, about the interaction between child protection workers and the women with whom they are working, in terms of their understanding of these concepts or how discrepancies between client and worker perceptions may create barriers to developing effective intervention strategies. Employing grounded theory methodology, focus group and interview data were used to explore how both worker and client experiences of the process of risk assessment and safety planning influenced the course of the intervention. Emergent findings reveal that workers and clients held a similar set of beliefs about the social construction/collective representation of woman abuse and the work of child protection. Specifically, for both, the concept of ‘doing the right thing’ was an over-arching theme for understanding how risk and safety are assessed, and determining how cases are opened or closed. Findings illustrate how narrative structures shape interactions that take place within the context of care and prevention, manifesting themselves in complex ways that can lead to risks for both clients and workers, in managing multiple risks, recognizing the complexity of the concept of safety, misunderstanding the impact on children, and the role of men in addressing DV in the lives of their children.

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