The Contexts

Introduction, Principles and Processes

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The Contexts

 

The Studies

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Methods of Review

 

Team Member Bios

 

Acknowledgments

 

 

Marie Connolly
Chair of Social Work, Melbourne School of Health Sciences, The University of Melbourne

Child protection work exists within a complex environment that is strongly influenced by individual, professional and societal values. Child welfare systems are influenced by the culture of the society within which they exist. Culture shapes our expectations of the state, the community and the family, and how they each respond to children needing care and protection. Although there would appear to be considerable commonality across child welfare systems internationally, there are inevitably cultural differences that give meaning and character to the work.

Structural systems that provide the mechanisms through which services are delivered differ across international boundaries. In some countries, these services may be primarily organized at a central government level, while others may be provided by local nongovernment systems. Legal frameworks also differ. How the law provides for the needs of children and families clearly affects the way in which practice is undertaken within a particular jurisdiction. Hence, the structural system and a country’s legal framework will critically shape both the principles that inform practice and the way in which interventions occur.

It is important to consider the cultural context within which each study in this bibliography has been undertaken. As countries have adopted family decision making as an engagement strategy, inevitable adaptations have been made and practices differ in important ways. This makes international comparisons much more complex. Indeed, the notion of family decision making itself may adapt more readily to some jurisdictions than to others. For example, societies that focus on the nuclear family -- mother, father and children -- may find the notion of involving extended kinship networks in decision making much more challenging than societies in which collective responsibility for children is a cultural norm.

Of course in general, cultures are open and dynamic systems in which change is a consequence of a creative interplay of ideas, values and activities. In this sense, the extension of family decision making across international boundaries is an exciting and enriching process and one that provides us with opportunities to explore our differences and challenges as well as our successes.

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