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Open Access research with a European policy impact...

The Strathprints institutional repository is a digital archive of University of Strathclyde's Open Access research outputs. Strathprints provides access to thousands of Open Access research papers by Strathclyde researchers, including by researchers from the European Policies Research Centre (EPRC).

EPRC is a leading institute in Europe for comparative research on public policy, with a particular focus on regional development policies. Spanning 30 European countries, EPRC research programmes have a strong emphasis on applied research and knowledge exchange, including the provision of policy advice to EU institutions and national and sub-national government authorities throughout Europe.

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Complexity theory: developing new understandings of child protection in field settings and in residential child care

Stevens, Irene and Cox, Pat (2008) Complexity theory: developing new understandings of child protection in field settings and in residential child care. British Journal of Social Work, 38 (7). pp. 1320-1336. ISSN 0045-3102

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Abstract

The protection of children, whether living at home or in residential care, is a core endeavour of residential and field social work with children. Yet, despite broad support from politicians, policy makers and the majority of the public for this work, child protection practice and practitioners are frequently criticized for perceived or actual failures to protect. Successive inquiries produce reports with similar recommendations, yet children continue to be abused and harmed, sometimes fatally. Clearly, better understandings and more effective protective practices need to be developed. Current research in the area of complexity theory is encouraging the development of concepts and applications which are powerful aids to understanding the issues that child protection practitioners experience daily. Child protection is not simple because of the multiplicity of factors that result in children being at risk. Complexity theory provides a framework for understanding the processes involved but without the problems of reductionism. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to explore the potential contribution of complexity theory and concepts that have relevance to the protection of children in both field and residential child care practice. It is argued that complexity theory offers new and helpful ways to conceptualize and work with the processes which underpin keeping children safe.