Effective participatory discourse: Experiences of participants’ engagement in the context of child protection assessment practices (EPECA), 2019-2022

EPECA is dedicated to carrying out a research project on effective participatory discourse in the context of child protection assessment practices. The primary aim of this research is to explore the experience of engagement within the context of child protection practice by listening to participants’ voices to understand what facilitates engagement between families and child protection workers. The results of this study will help practitioners select appropriate strategies to engage families in the assessment process. Furthermore, this study will improve worker skills and organisational processes for more effective family engagement, which enables increasing the quality of service delivery and in turn contributes to strengthening the child welfare system. Financed by Estonian Research Council.

The research is divided into three studies, addressing the following research questions:

Study 1 (systematic review): What are successful family engagement strategies internationally?

Study 1 is completed, four articles have been submitted to journals on: (1) children’s views in child protection casework in general, (2) strengths-based practice in child welfare, (3) children’s participation in child protection decision-making from children’s perspectives, (4) children’s participation in child protection decision-making from child welfare workers’ perspectives.

Study 2 (interviews with workers, parents and children, including Client Engagement Scale from Yatchmenoff, 2005): What are stakeholders’ experiences and perceptions of the engagement process, including best practices that lead to successful engagement of workers and families?

Interviews with families and child protection workers are in ongoing process in three counties in Estonia; in one county, data collection is completed.

Study 3 (online survey with child protection workers, using questionnaire from Vis et al., 2012): What are obstacles engaging children in the assessment process?

Data collection is completed. In total, 106 child protection workers participated in the study, representing a response rate of 41.4% (256 child protection workers working in local governments in Estonia during the time of the study). Survey included two parts: quantitative (is et al., 2012 questionnaire) and qualitative (one open question: ‘Please describe, what are your thoughts on child participation in child protection cases?’). Quantitative part is in the process of data analysis; qualitative part is completed and publication submitted to the journal.

Published publications:

Toros, K. (2020). A Systematic Review of Children’s Participation in Child Protection Decision-Making: Tokenistic Presence or Not? Children & Society, doi:10.1111/chso.12418 [in press]. Related to Study 1.

Toros, K., & Falch-Eriksen, A. (2020). “I do not want to cause additional pain …” – Child protection workers’ perspectives on child participation in child protection practice. Journal of Family Social Work, doi:10.1080/10522158.2020.1833396 [in press]. Related to Study 3.

Toros, K., & Falch-Eriksen, A. (2020). A child’s right to protection during the COVID-19 crisis: An exploratory study of the Child Protective Services in Estonia. Children and Youth Services Review, doi:10.1026/j.childyouth.2020.105568 [in press].  Related to additional study conducted after the COVID-19 outbreak for the project EPECA.

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Andreas, 2 years