Journal Article

A Qualitative Examination of Power between Child Welfare Workers and Parents

Kimberly Bundy-Fazioli, Katharine Briar-Lawson and Eric R. Hardiman

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 39, issue 8, pages 1447-1464
Published in print December 2009 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online April 2008 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
A Qualitative Examination of Power between Child Welfare Workers and Parents

Show Summary Details


This qualitative study examines the distribution of power in the working relationship between child welfare workers and parents mandated to services due to child abuse and/or neglect. In child welfare settings, the relationship between workers and parents is complicated by institutional power structures governing rules and regulations for practice. Paradoxically, workers are expected to share power with families through the implementation of empowerment, collaboration and strength-based practices. This article focuses on three emergent themes: parents' and workers' feelings of powerlessness, their ability to each wield power in the relationship, and their perceptions of how power should be distributed. The emergent themes are discussed through the lens of three power constructs—hierarchical and imbalanced, negotiated and reciprocal, and shared and balanced power—as a theoretical and conceptual framework. Our findings indicate that how workers and parents choose to interact may influence service outcomes.

Keywords: Child Maltreatment; Child Welfare; Power; Working Relationship

Journal Article.  6745 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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