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Fixing change – An ethnographic study of child protection practice

Sheehan, Lucy 2022. Fixing change – An ethnographic study of child protection practice. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis is concerned with the methods that accomplish a central project of child protection social work, parental self-transformation. Face-to-face practice in child protection has rarely been described in terms of the lived organisational detail of the professional methods in and through which it is accomplished. That this detail is missed is a central analytic matter, but also results in misplaced exhortations to practitioners that fail to incorporate the realities of practice. This thesis recovers the situated detail of ‘change methods’ in child protection practice by describing the interactional work through which change, or lack thereof, is achieved. ‘Change methods’ refer to the methodical ways in which social workers, parents and professionals accomplish parental selves as workable objects. These include the interactional forms in which allegations of deviance are produced and dealt with, and those through which institutional trajectories of change, or lack thereof are accomplished. The term ‘fixing’ here refers to the work that goes into accomplishing a parental identity as workable, or not, by making it appear static, as a basis from which to proceed. This thesis contributes to rethinking existing approaches to social work research by drawing together ethnographic and ethnomethodological insights. Through ethnomethodological ethnography, it pays close attention to the ‘change methods’ in and through which parental transformation is accomplished interactionally over time. Shadowing social workers as they worked with five families over the course of ten months made it possible to stay with the phenomenon of child protection change methods. Attending to members’ categorisation practices made it possible to show 1. How social workers delimit and enable parental change; 2. How accounts of parental change are achieved in and through normative categorisation practices over time; and 3. Some of the professional methods involved in charting and accounting for such change. Through describing the observable professional logics in action, it is possible to see that the moral work of parental self-transformation, is not simply ‘done by’ social workers but is the very stuff of child protection social work.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 28 April 2022
Last Modified: 28 Apr 2022 11:00

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