The use of Facebook in social work practice with children and families: Exploring complexity in an emerging practice

Tarsem Singh Cooner, Liz Beddoe, Harry Ferguson and Eileen Joy 

Our new  article, published here in the Journal  of Technology in Human Services,  draws from a 15-month participant observation study of social work and child protection practices in England to illustrate how social workers used Facebook to gain another view of service-users’ lives.

For more about the larger study please read Ferguson et al. (2019) “From snapshots of practice to a movie: Researching long-term social work and child protection by getting as close as possible to practice and organisational life ” read free here , and Disney et al. (2019) “Isn’t it funny the children that are further away we don’t think about as much?”: Using GPS to explore the mobilities and geographies of social work and child protection practice” read free here.

Social media use was not an intended focus for the study, however its presence emerged during our data analysis. While some earlier research has shown that such practices occur, our long-term ethnographic approach provides new insights into how Facebook was actually used in ongoing casework with families and why it was used. Our findings show that Facebook use took multiple forms. Some social workers actively searched service users’ Facebook pages and some opposed any such usage. We further advance the literature by introducing a third group who were unwillingly ‘drawn into’ acting on Facebook information presented to them by others such as their managers.

Our research insights suggest that social work must pause to consider the implications of these complex emerging practices. We’ve also made a small video to explore the ethical issues. View here.

References- all open access articles

Cooner, T. S., Beddoe, L., Ferguson, H., & Joy, E. (2019). The use of Facebook in social work practice with children and families: Exploring complexity in an emerging practice. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 1-22. doi:10.1080/15228835.2019.1680335

Cooner, T. S., & Beddoe, L. (5 July, 2018). Facebook: An unethical practice or effective tool in child protection?  Video view here.

Disney, T., Warwick, L., Ferguson, H., Leigh, J., Cooner, T. S., Beddoe, L., . . . Osborne, T. (2019). “Isn’t it funny the children that are further away we don’t think about as much?”: Using GPS to explore the mobilities and geographies of social work and child protection practice. Children and Youth Services Review, 100, 39-49. doi:doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.02.029

Ferguson, H., Leigh, J., Cooner, T. S., Beddoe, L., Disney, T., Warwick, L., & Plumridge, G. (2019). From snapshots of practice to a movie: Researching long-term social work and child protection by getting as close as possible to practice and organisational life. The British Journal of Social Work. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcz119

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

 

About socialworknz

I'm a social work researcher in Aotearoa New Zealand
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