Influencing child care social work: the curiosity of an experienced practitioner

Gibson, Arthur John (2019) Influencing child care social work: the curiosity of an experienced practitioner. [Doctorate by Public Works]

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The context statement required for the Professional Doctorate by Public Works at the University of Middlesex is a personal reflection on professional development expressed in selected public works as well as other artefacts, values, beliefs and ideas. How to structure and write the context statement was a challenge, frustrating at first while I developed a structure; frustration gave way to pleasure as I began to see how the context statement acted as the container from which emerged my public works. During my struggle to develop an approach to writing the context statement, my Study Supervisor, Dr David Adams, posed a question to me, he invited me to consider how I would answer the following question, “What is the question to which your life’s work is the answer?” At first the answer seemed obvious; how to help troubled children. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that in meeting children’s needs I’ve also been meeting my own needs, thus I was reminded of Palmer’s question, (Palmer, 2000 p5), “Who am I, what is my nature?”.

The setting and area of work that has given me opportunity to express myself and that gave rise to the public works listed later in the context statement is that of residential childcare in Northern Ireland. Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland is delivered as an integrated service. The geographical area is serviced by five Health and Social Care Trusts that are in turn responsible to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS). Each Trust manages a range of services, that include social work and social care. The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), acts as commissioner and works with the five Trusts to assess the need for services. In October 2017 there were 45 children’s residential homes in NI with 269 children resident (Department of Health, 2017).

I have accumulated over 40 years’ experience in the field of childcare social work, specifically in residential care and in the past five years, in foster care. During that time, I have sought to inform my work with relevant knowledge. I agree with Holmes, who, with reference to psychoanalysis points out that ‘psycho-analytic virtue does not lie in the number of theories the psychoanalyst can command but the minimum number with which he can meet any contingency,’ (Holmes, 2006, p 556). This context statement represents a long held personal ambition, namely, to give expression to that knowledge base in a coherent manner, not as an end, but as preparation for further work of potential use to others committed to improving children’s experience.

I believe that the listed public works, as well as other activities illustrate that over time my role, as well as working directly with children, their carers, and other professionals has included that of theory translator. Thus, a dominant feature in my public works includes interpreting and applying knowledge to the science and art of caring for troubled children.

Table 1 lists specific public works that I have selected for scrutiny. These public works reflect growth in my development and mark a professional shift from a preference for clinical / technical skills as evidenced in PW 2 to a relational approach as evidenced in all my other public works. The penultimate section of this context statement is set out as a conceptual integration where I assemble the essential core concepts and practices that have come to inform my work and that I believe are essential elements in assisting children to recover from some of the harsh and damaging realities of life that they have encountered.

Later in the text that follows, I explain how, once I located myself in the field of child care work, the task of understanding and responding to the needs of the children and young people I helped care for, piqued my curiosity and desire to learn; I set out on a knowledge quest to better understand the needs of these children and for ideas about how to apply that knowledge in ways that would be beneficial to them. The knowledge quest led to a traditional PhD registration that I had to abandon at close to the halfway point because of illness. Giving up the PhD always felt like unfinished business thus this route to the higher degree with Middlesex University was a welcome discovery.

Item Type: Doctorate by Public Works
Research Areas: A. > Business School > Leadership, Work and Organisations > Professional Practice group for LWO
B. > Theses
Item ID: 26895
Depositing User: Brigitte Joerg
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2019 10:24
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2019 00:43

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