Working at the nexus of risk: Statutory Child Protection

By Tony Stanley.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Through the work of child abuse assessment, familial and professional consultation, and its analysis, social workers in the field of child protection construct understandings about children ‘at risk’. They actively build knowledge as they engage in assessments of children referred to them as potentially ‘at risk’. This paper argues that this is greatly enhanced when the disciplines of sociology and social work converge at the nexus of risk; important because social work has been rather slow at rendering non-human ‘things’ of interest to practice debates about risk. The argument is made here for sociology of and for social work to address this. Actor Network Theory (ANT) is offered as a theoretical and practical sociological method where ‘things’ in practice can be conceptualised as partners for working at the nexus of risk. This paper is arguing for a more critical and sociological engagement with risk by social workers and their supervisors, with colleagues external to statutory child welfare, and, importantly, with families and children. Thus working at the nexus of risk, at times a highly anxious space is rendered more manageable because of a sociological approach to social work. Social worker voices from the front line are drawn on to the illuminate the arguments made.

Keywords: Risk, Anxiety, Actor Networks, Child Protection, Social Work

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 6, pp.87-98. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 623.242KB).

Dr. Tony Stanley

Group Manager, Childrens Social Care, London, UK

Dr Tony Stanley has worked in front line child welfare social work and academic teaching in New Zealand, Australia and the UK for the past 15 years. His research interests include risk discourses and regulatory practises in statutory child welfare. He enjoys the debates of academia and the translations of these for practice environments and is working in statutory child protection management in London and is a visiting lecturer at Westminster University.


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