This issue of the Journal is based to a large extent on a selection of invited papers from the European Research Institute for Social Work conference organised and hosted by Trnava University, Slovakia, on the theme of Children in Social Work in autumn 2019. From amongst a collection of excellent presentations, a number of presenters were invited to submit manuscripts, which were then subject to our usual selection procedure where our reviewers and editors ascertained the submissions which have rigour, and provide the most useful knowledge for social work students, social work academics, social workers, and policymakers. In addition, they are the ones which we believe best meet the Journal’ s aim to source and publish original research and theoretical papers which enhance social work knowledge and practice, within its mission
- to tackle the problems of people´s lives through social work
- to support the quality of social work and the professionalisation of social work practice
- to contribute to the development of social work as a science to the improvement of the education in social work, and
- to support the interests of the social services providers and users.
We believe that the articles in this edition do indeed support the development of social work capacity and knowledge in these ways.
The International Federation of Social Workers and IASSW Global Definition of the Social Work Profession https://www.ifsw. org/what-is-social-work/global-definition-ofsocial- work/ sets out how
“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing”. We also hope that the articles in this issue demonstrate these aims and values well.
Authors from a number of countries across Europe and beyond have presented their work here.
2 of these relate to people with disabilities. Parents Subjectivity in a Family with Disabled Children and Choice of Education Model by Valeria Sizikova and Olga Anikeeva is based on the author’s study of parental views in families where they have a child who is disabled, examining the parents’ awareness of their role in raising their child and their choice of a behavioural model in so doing. The article presents the findings of this work concerning parent`s self-esteem, their preparedness to fulfil parental responsibilities in raising a child with disabilities and identifies patterns of parent behaviour in the disabled child’s development process. The research used semi-structured indepth interviews as well as an expert survey of specialists and managers of organizations providing social and pedagogical support. The article contends that identifying these assessments and models of parental behaviours are important components for further developing the formulation of professional support for such parents, and the formation of meaningful social partnerships between the family and professionals.
The second one on this theme authored by Beata Balogova and Leon Szot, Selected Socio- Cultural Aspects of Disability in the Arab World – Sociological Approach. The article undertakes an analysis of research and theoretical approaches towards people with disabilities in the Arab region, with particular reference to socio-cultural aspects, exploring the nature of ‘disability’ concepts and notions in the Arab region. The article presents the results of quantitative research which used statistical indicators of relevant institutions with subsequent comparison between them. The authors examine issues related to employment, education and the social protection of people with disabilities in the Arab region. The article demonstrates how the research highlighted the differences in approaches to people with disabilities, and in particular the lack of social interventions. The authors deal with important issues such as social diversity and social stigmatization, which are seen as the greatest threat to positive social worker interventions. The article recommends greater focus on the potential value of the role of social work in exploring and developing ideas and practices about the issue of disability in the Arab world with regard to social policy and specific welfare state interventions, which it is argued remains only on a declarative level, without their practical application.
A further two articles relate to issues of how social work might relate to housing.
One of these is the article on Preparing Young People for Leaving Children’s Homes by Petra Anna-Marie Blahová, which sets out to understand the place of social work interventions when young people are being prepared to leave children’s residential units. Based upon theoretical ideas of participatory social work, methods used included a situational analysis of the data, presenting ontological and epistemological foundations, and the use of tools to examine reality. As well as setting out the aims and processes used to prepare young people for such transfer, the limitations of direct social work in the institution is examined. The article makes the recommendation that in order to adequately support young people in preparation for leaving institutions social workers need to be involved more in this work in residential units for children, not only indirectly but also directly, while preparing young people for leaving. Importantly, the article recommends that the explicit participation of young people themselves should also be a source of support during their preparation for leaving.
The second article, by Soňa Vávrová and Alice Gojová in this vein, concerns itself with families with children who are in a homeless situation. Emerging Models of Social Work Accompanying Housing, or How Czech Social Workers Treat Homelessness in Families with Children, while Having No Legal Support sets out to describe emerging social work models accompanying housing that are implemented in work with families, including where those families are at risk, and where the children may be at risk. In so doing, it examines Czech social work support for such families and children by the use of two approaches to reintegration of people without a home, Housing Ready and Housing First. The work made use of situational analysis, and used qualitative data analysed from interviews with 29 social workers. It found that 5 dominant identifiable social work models were in use: the protective model; promoting autonomy; and the model based on the extent into which the social worker accepts the demands of the client and the environment. 2 further models were specialising in competence in housing, and the comprehensive model. The article discusses how such recognition and exposition of Czech social work models in relation to family housing can be of value in formulating plans with regard to the needs and difficulties of at-risk families with children.
The article Early Care in the Context of the Czech and Foreign Retrospective and its Current Situation: The Particular Statistics in the Pardubice Region by Zdenka Šándorová and Jaroslav Myslivec sets out to answer the question as to whether early care as a social prevention service is effective and justifiable in the social service system. Drawing on the theoretical background of the process of transformation and consolidation of childcare for children at risk in the Czech Republic, it provides an account of current early care systems in the Czech Republic, but also with implications further afield. The authors analyse key literature and documents before setting out their longitudinal research- not so common in social work research- used to collect statistical data from the existing records of an early care provider. This enabled the authors to evaluate legitimacy and effectiveness of the service provided to a very vulnerable target group, i.e. those families with a young child with health impairment that limits opportunities to socialize. It then sets out how the findings can be used to inform social policy, with recommendations on how such early care can help meet families’ needs by supporting the psychological, social and somatic development of children.
Social work role in the use of family mediation is the focus of the article The Place of Family Mediation as a Form of Support and Protection of Children’s Rights in Social Assistance Activities, authored by Joanna Rajewska de Meze. It sets out the potential importance of mediation as a form of conflict resolution as a tool for social workers where they are working with divorcing parents, and how this can affect the need to protect children’s interests, and how to attempt to stabilise child’s situation. It does this by examining the extant literature, statistical evidence, and relevant research. In basing the work in Poland, it sets out how its institutional social assistance offering clients a free-of-charge mediation proceedings. It emphasises the interpersonal dimension of mediation as important for community social work, and the skills social workers can bring to such work.
Veronika Mia Zegzulková and Marie Špiláčková’s article on Reflection of the Impacts of the Society Transformation in Relation to Education in Social Work reflects on the impact of current trends in societal transformation and its relationship with the education of social workers, by examining the second stage of modernisation within neoliberalism. The article analyses this from a critical theory perspective, dealing with the impacts of such societal transformation that has changed not only the content of education of social workers and social work as a profession (as found in the examples of Great Britain and Scandinavia) with results suggesting new ideas and challenges for expert discourse regarding the topic of education at the national and international social work levels.
On the related theme of new formulations of social work in different countries, Empowering Community Work in Elastic- Reflexive Transformation – A Nordic Perspective from Sweden by Päivi Turunen highlights community work within the transformation of professional social work in the Nordic context, with the background of the neoliberal transition of the welfare state in Sweden. The article describes, analyses and compares 2 case studies from Sweden for community work in a suburb, consisting of a municipal offering as well as an association-based community project, are described, analysed and compared, using perspectives of empowerment and community work from socio-spatial perspectives in local communities. The research examined relevant documents and webpages, and made use of interviews, field visits and observations, with a follow-up survey. The ways in which community work has been transformed and has almost disappeared from professional social work in Sweden since the 1970s, with it becoming less political, structural or collectively challenging of the status quo. The argument is put for the need to develop community work and associated empirical research within professional social work in order to empower communities, paying more attention to changes in the everyday lives of people in marginalised urban and rural housing areas.
The book review of Laura Béres and Jan Fook’s edited book Learning Critical Reflection: Experiences of the Transformative Learning Process by John Paul Anastasiadis sets out how the book offers insights for an important area of social work practice, i.e. exploring critically reflective practice and the process of learning to be critically reflective. The value of exploring the emotional and cognitive experiences which can take place for learners in becoming more critically reflective is discussed.
We hope that you enjoy them and find them valuable in your learning for social work as much as we did as editors.
Dr Karen Mills and Prof Brian Littlechild,