The aim of this study is to describe, analyse and compare different models of child welfare investigation and assessment of families. We selected six local authorities and used vignettes to study investigation/assessment procedures for families with children age 0–12 years, that were reported to the authority for child maltreatment. Each of the local authorities had, in one way or another, attracted wide spread professional attention due to their use of certain models of social work with children.
The study aims to answer the following questions:
• Do local authorities use more or less standardardized models in child welfare investigation and family assessment?
• If yes, how can these models be described?
• Does the process of the investigation/family assessment vary with the choice of model?
Results reveal certain patterns in child welfare investigations, mainly based on how local child welfare work is organized. But there are also wide variations between local authorities with similar organisations and even with the same choice of models. Also, there are great variations within most local authorities, regardless of how they are organized or what model of investigation/assessment they use. Results suggest that professed use of a ”model” in investigation/assesment work does not necessarily lead to daily child welfare work becoming more predictable. That is, a child welfare report can generate different investigation processes and outcomes within a local authory, even if social workers claim to use a specific model in their work. A ”model” should be understood as a basic orientation with considerable variety. If a ”model” in child welfare work is defined as a standardized, replicable method of investigation/assessment and decisionmaking, producing a predictable process or outcome in child welfare investigations – then there are no models. One way to study investigation/assessment work in child welfare is to focus the organizational context. In this study we have categorized organisations with a sub-unit doing only investigative work as specialised organisations and organisations where the social worker investi73 gate/assess as well as give advice, administrate placements in care etc. as integrated organisations. Results vary between social workers in specialised and integrated organisations. Social workers in specialised organisations tend to start investigations sooner, use more coercive actions and strive towards ”harder” interventions in the form of placements in residential and foster care. Social workers in integrated organisations tend to vary more in their decisions, and favour mostly in-home-treatment. The study points toward a lack of distinct concepts, assessment standards, predictable procedures and outcomes in child welfare investigations. Results indicate a professional uncertainty about central issues in this most formalised area of child welfare. Investigation procedures and outcomes seem to differ considerably between local authorities and individual professionals – that is depending on the geographic residence of the family and what social worker that is assigned to the case.
Stockholm: Socialstyrelsen/CUS , 2000. , 80 p.