Child welfare workers’ experiences of obstacles in care order preparation: a cross-country comparison

Ida Juhasz (University of Bergen) and Marit Skivenes (University of Bergen) (2017)

Published in European Journal of Social Work, 2016

This paper examines the significant obstacles that child protection workers in four countries, England, Finland, Norway and the USA (CA), believe they would face at their workplace, in a case of a child removal decision. There are many potential barriers employees may experience in their work practice, either external factors, organizational factors or individual factors, or combinations of these. Presented with the same situation, we ask workers what they perceive as significant obstacles, if any, for preparing a care order at their work place. The findings show that roughly two out of three workers say they would experience obstacles, and the main obstacle by far is related to time and/or large caseloads. Lack of organizational structures or poor management is the second major obstacle, followed by collaborative problems with external partners and challenges related to providing evidence. Only a few workers mention individual factors. The workers’ perspectives show that the obstacles they experience may have a negative influence on the quality of their decision-making. The study indicates that improvements do not firstly require more leadership or structural changes, but more time and resources to limit caseloads. There are country differences showing that perceptions of what is sufficient time and resources are highly relative, as the caseloads and actual time available for workers vary significantly across countries.