Current practice for social workers on planning contact for special guardianship children

Publication Date28 Nov 2019
Pages251-265
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/JCS-09-2018-0020
AuthorNicholas Thompson
SubjectHealth & social care,Vulnerable groups,Children's services,Sociology,Sociology of the family,Children/youth,Parents,Education,Early childhood education,Home culture,Social/physical development
Current practice for social workers
on planning contact for special
guardianship children
Nicholas Thompson
Abstract
Purpose An integral feature of Special Guardianship Orders (SGO) is that the children should have some
contact with their parents after the order is granted. Local authority social workers have a duty to plan and
recommend levels and types of contact. But there is no policy guidance provided on how to undertake these
duties, and little is known about the process that practitioners undertake. The purpose of this paper is to
investigate the recommending of contact in special guardianship cases, and to provide data on what contact
social workers are recommending the factors they take into consideration and the reasons for their decisions.
Design/methodology/approach The research involved a mixed-methods approach comprising of a
questionnaire and focus groups. This part of the study comprised of an online questionnaire that was
completed by 102 local authority social workers. Responses were downloaded into SPSS Statistics v22 for
data analysis and a content analysis was conducted.
Findings Quantitative results from the questionnaire are reported in this paper. Respondents provided
comprehensive details on what they include in their recommendations, including levels of contact frequency
and specific directions. Practitioners rated the factors they considered in reaching their decisions, and gave
their generalviews on special guardianshipcontact. Results indicatedthat practitioners are recommendingless
contact for fathers than for mothers, and may feel less positively about paternal contact. Bivariate analysis
suggests that some olderand more experienced social workers are recommending lower levels of contact.
Research limitations/implications The statistical significance of the results was limited by the relatively
small sample size. It was therefore decided to limit bivariate analyses to consideration of just three
independent variables: the social workers age and number of years in practice, and the age of the child at the
time of their SGO, against dependent variables concerning the levels of contact that had been recommended
for mothers and fathers and how positive these were considered to be. Because of the limited sample size,
most of the results were above this level, and so were not statistically significant.
Practical implications Special guardianship has been in place for 12 years now, but apart from Jim
Wades 2014 study there has been no major research to guide and inform practice. Such major changes in
child welfare require substantiating research, and this study is an attempt to begin filling that gap. The
questionnaire part of this study has for the first time provided data on the views, motivations and practice of
social workers across the country making recommendations on special guardianship contact.
Social implications The study provides a picture of the type of contact being recommended for birth
parents.This information will be usefulfor practitioners, who mightotherwise not know what theircolleagues in
other localauthorities are recommending,and it is hoped that this will encouragefurther debate on the subject.
Originality/value Special guardianship has so far been poorly served by research. To the authors
knowledge, apart from Wades study there is very little research on the subject, and no significant research at
all on special guardianship contact. This questionnaire, alongside the four focus groups that formed the
second part of the study, provides the first picture of current practice across the country.
Keywords Special guardianship, Special guardian, Contact, Recommendations, Social worker
Paper type Research paper
Introduction
Since it was introduced 13 years ago special guardianship has rapidly become a popular and
important permanency option for children who cannot live with their parents (Wade et al., 2014).
In 2018, 3,430 children, 11 per cent of those leaving care, were subject to a Special
Received 26 September 2018
Revised 22 April 2019
Accepted 19 July 2019
Nicholas Thompson is based at
the IASR, University of
Bedfordshire, Luton, UK.
DOI 10.1108/JCS-09-2018-0020 VOL. 14 NO. 4 2019, pp. 251-265, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1746-6660
j
JOURNAL OF CHILDREN'S SERVICES
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