“The tip of the iceberg”: Multiple thresholds in schools’ detecting and reporting of child abuse and neglect

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Irene de Haan, Eileen Joy, Liz Beddoe and Sark Iam

School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work, University of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand

Schools and school  principals in particular have a very important role to play in the detection and reporting of child abuse and neglect (CAN). How schools address concerns relating to CAN is an under-researched area in Aotearoa New Zealand. Our study, funded by the Faculty of Education and Social Work faculty research development fund has aimed to address that gap. We have recently published a new article from our three-phase qualitative research project involving school principals, school based social workers (Beddoe, 2017; Beddoe & de Haan,  2018; Beddoe, de Haan & Joy, 2018), and beginning teachers (in progress) about school responses to child abuse and neglect (CAN). A qualitative methodology was chosen to allow the researchers to explore and contextualize participants’ experience, comprehend experiences, contextualise meanings and produce ‘thick’ descriptions .  Our new article focuses on  how principals and school staff made determinations about CAN and what factors influenced those decisions. While this is a small study there is clearly work to be done to build relationships between parts of the child welfare system. School social workers have recognised these dynamics as potentially harmful  (Beddoe & de Haan, 2018)and were in general agreement that  improving cooperative efforts between schools and child protective services should be a priority.

METHOD: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with primary and intermediate (n=16) school principals. A selection of that data was examined with regard to threshold determination in CAN.

FINDINGS: Thresholds, both definitional and action-based, were found to be multi-determined, with case, teacher, and critically, perceptions of the child statutory agency found to have an impact.

IMPLICATIONS: Findings indicate there is no ‘one’ threshold in the detection of, or the reporting of CAN in schools. Further, there are clear opportunities for future research; including understanding the nature of the relationship between schools and the statutory child protection agency in New Zealand- Oranga Tamariki Ministry for Children.

New article:  de Haan, I., Joy, E., Beddoe, L., & Iam, S. (2019). “The tip of the iceberg”: Multiple thresholds in schools’ detecting and reporting of child abuse and neglect. Children and Youth Services Review, 96, 278-285. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2018.10.034

Read article free until 29 January 2019. After that email me at e.beddoe@auckland.ac.nz for a copy. Read here

References

Beddoe, L. (2017). Managing identity in a host setting: School social workers’ strategies for better interprofessional work in New Zealand schools. Qualitative Social Work, 1473325017747961. doi:10.1177/1473325017747961 Abstract

Beddoe, L., & de Haan, I. (2018). Addressing concerns about child maltreatment in schools: A brief research report on social work involvement in reporting processes. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 30(1), 58- 64. doi:10.11157/anzswj-vol30iss1id421

Beddoe, L., de Haan, I., & Joy, E. (2018). ‘If you could change two things’: Social workers in schools talk about what could improve schools’ responses to child abuse and neglect. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 30(1), 45-57. doi:10.11157/anzswj-vol30iss1id420

de Haan, I., Joy, E., Beddoe, L., & Iam, S. (2019). “The tip of the iceberg”: Multiple thresholds in schools’ detecting and reporting of child abuse and neglect. Children and Youth Services Review, 96, 278-285. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2018.10.034

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About socialworknz

I'm a social work researcher in Aotearoa New Zealand
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