Power with and power over: Social workers’ reflections on their use of power when talking with parents about child welfare concerns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Within the child protection system, social workers are often prompted to use their power in a productive (‘power-with’) rather than oppressive (‘power-over’) manner. This article aims to explore how social workers perceive their use of power when speaking with parents about child welfare concerns. The study was based on 20 in-depth interviews conducted with social work practitioners working in an Israeli child protection program. The findings point to the complexity of managing power within the extreme power imbalance of the child protection system. Workers described using three kinds of strategies when talking with parents about child welfare concerns: confrontational, dialogical, and avoidant. Yet the type of strategy utilized was not indicative of whether power was used with or over parents. Rather, the findings show how specific practices and skills used by workers and the rationales that informed them dictated whether power was used with parents or over them.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106776
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Volume145
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2023

Keywords

  • Child protection
  • Communication
  • Parents
  • Power
  • Social work practice

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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