Ascertaining the wishes and feelings of young children: social workers' perspectives on skills and training

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Abstract

The research was undertaken in the context of the ongoing debate about child care social work training and children's participation. Its aim was to explore the views of qualified child care social workers about their skills in eliciting the wishes and feelings of younger children and the relevance of social work training for this task. Questionnaires, focusing on their skills and training, were completed by 70 UK child care practitioners from the Children and Families Court Advisory and Support Service, voluntary agencies and local authorities. On average, practitioners felt able to ascertain the feelings and wishes of children as young as 4 years old. Nevertheless, at qualifying level, only 30% had training in communicating with young children, 16% in ascertaining children's feelings and wishes, and 66% in child development. Many had subsequently relied on in-service training and their own initiatives to acquire further skills and understanding. In conclusion, most participants were experienced practitioners working in supportive organizations and had developed considerable communication skills. However, concerns remain because they identified deficits in child care social work qualifying and post-qualifying training. Consequently, more effective training at all levels is required if social workers are to engage younger children successfully and facilitate their participation.

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