A powerful short film showing the perspectives of six women involved with child welfare and protection has been created to improve the experience of families involved in these processes.
The Recognition Matters project saw six individuals, including Dr Mary Mitchell of the School of Social and Political Science, come together to combine research findings with their stories of personal and professional experience within child protection and welfare.
The new Recognition Matters video was the end product of this knowledge exchange project. It aims to support social work professionals, academics and service users to improve outcomes for families. It was a collaborative initiative involving social work academics Dr Mary Mitchell of SPS and Dr Ariane Critchley at Edinburgh Napier University, three City of Edinburgh Council social work practitioners and a mother with lived experience of the process.
Combining research and experience
Recognition Matters began when Dr Mitchell and Dr Critchley engaged social worker Nicky Hunter; Julie Falconer, team leader within the City of Edinburgh Council’s Family Group Decision Making division; and Heather Rush, a family group decision-making coordinator within the same team, who shared their experiences of working in partnership with families to create safe plans for children.
The team worked with Azaria Faver, an inspirational young mother who had experience of child welfare processes in her own pregnancy and was already contributing to social work education and training from her lived experience.
Azaria was using drugs when she became pregnant and her story is recounted in the first output of the Recognition Matters project, Azaria’s Story - a short film that features Azaria sharing her experiences of pre-birth child protection and being part of a family group conference for her child.
In the film – which can be viewed here – she also explains how important the relationships she made with professionals were for her and her family.
Recognition Matters seminar and film
After recording Azaria’s Story, the team organised a seminar and invited people from across Scotland with the power to make a difference in child welfare and protection. At this event, the film was shown and the team shared research findings, practice wisdom, and life-story experience.
This process led to the new longer film, Recognition Matters, which brought all of these messages together.
The film is designed to be shown in teaching and training, and to be shared with families who are going through child welfare processes.
It is supported by an accompanying briefing, which is available here.
From the researchers
Dr Mitchell said:
“It’s been a privilege being involved in this project and to see a nut of an idea grow into a useful resource for social work practitioners and families. The film highlights how family members need to feel ‘recognised’ in order to be able to participate fully in key decisions affecting them.
“As one social worker pointed out: Azaria’s powerful story shows what it means when love, respect and solidarity are part of child protection processes.”
Dr Critchley said:
“The Recognition Matters knowledge exchange project began with a conversation between Mary and myself about our doctoral findings. We were fascinated by the fact that we had both found that process mattered a great deal to families, not only outcomes. We are both motivated to strengthen and support child care and protection practice, and we were lucky to be able to build a team with three experienced social workers and Azaria, who is a truly inspirational speaker and trainer.
“We have all been delighted by the national and international response to the Recognition Matters resources and our work. It has been a joy to work on this project and I hope the resources will support social work practice and education in many settings, and be made available to families going through child welfare processes.”
The Recognition Matters project has been funded by the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Knowledge Exchange fund at the University of Edinburgh, and the School of Health and Social Care Public Engagement fund at Edinburgh Napier, with additional funds from the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science’s 2018 Impact Prize.
More about the researchers
Mary and Ariane recently completed their PhDs within the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh, and both found that families placed a great importance on the process behind the decision making regarding a child’s future – not just on whether a family can stay together.
This prompted the launch of this project and is a message that has underpinned all activity throughout it.
Dr Mitchell’s PhD investigated the contribution Family Group Conferencing makes towards outcomes for children at risk of being accommodated.
Dr Critchley’s PhD focused on the relationship between social workers and families during pre-birth child protection processes.
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