Dr Louise Caffrey and Dr Freda Browne (Trinity College, Dublin) have just published a highly-recommended article titled Understanding the social worker-family relationship through self-determination theory: A realist synthesis of Signs of Safety.
They pursued a realist synthesis approach to better understand how Signs of Safety works and the paper makes the case that concepts associated with ‘self-determination theory’ may deepen our understanding of why Signs of Safety works, for whom, and in what circumstances.
The abstract is below with a link to the full article, which is open access and can be viewed without a subscription.
Signs of Safety (SofS) is a popular framework for child protection social work practice, used in more than 200 jurisdictions worldwide. Although workers tend to find SofS tools easy to use, skilled application of the approach is challenging, and research has found that SofS is often not implemented as intended. This study aimed to deepen and inform the explanation (initial theory) of what key SofS tools and processes are expected to achieve in the family–worker interaction and why.
A realist synthesis was used, involving a realist review of literature and focus groups with 22 international SofS experts. Using self-determination theory, we detail how SofS can be conceptualized as aiming to support families to experience ‘autonomous’ rather than ‘controlled’ motivation by supporting basic human needs for ‘autonomy’ (feeling a sense of volition), ‘competence’ (feeling effective) and ‘relatedness’ (feeling cared for).
…we suggest that self-determination theory may contribute a mechanistic explanation of effective social work practice more generally and that this hypothesis should be empirically investigated.
This explanation can be used for training and evaluation purposes to better explain and test how SofS expects to engage families in the child protection process. More broadly, we suggest that self-determination theory may contribute a mechanistic explanation of effective social work practice more generally and that this hypothesis should be empirically investigated.
Read the full article here.