Making Sense of Each Other: Lived Experiences and Told Stories of Child Protection Social Workers and Asylum-Seeking Families
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Ireland has become an increasingly multi-cultural society since the mid-1990s, changing from a country of emigration to one of immigration. In response to this multiculturalism, the Irish Government embarked on several commendable initiatives. These changes have yet to be fully recognised within Child Protection and Child Welfare Services (CPCWS). The development of national guidelines in recent times has failed to provide adequate guidance for social workers on how to respond effectively to asylum-seeking families, a relatively new service user group for community care teams. Much of current Irish research sheds limited light on how social workers ought to respond to asylum-seeking children and their families within a child protection context. This study examines the experiences of social workers and asylum-seeking families. The first of its kind in this field in the Republic of Ireland, the study design is primarily qualitative with an overall action research orientation. Research data was collected by use of a Biographical Narrative Interviewing Method which formed the basis of the broader analysis using ‘Framework Analysis.’ The study highlights the need for appropriate and on-going culturally competent training for social workers in this area. Its findings illustrate the complexity of social work practice in this area and indicate the need for a clear and well-considered basis of recommendations for practice, and a coherent and focused approach to child protection and welfare work, that not only is centred on the child but also acknowledges both the cultural setting in which the child was reared, and the conflicted role of CPWSWs of care and control in mediating between the State and the family. These suggestions are rooted in the enhanced model of cultural competence developed from the study’s findings and provide the basis for future research.
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