Working in complex contexts; mother social workers and the mothers they meet

O'Sullivan, Nicola and Cooper, Andrew (2021) Working in complex contexts; mother social workers and the mothers they meet. Journal of Social Work Practice . ISSN 0265-0533

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Drawing on findings from a psycho-social qualitative doctoral study, this paper considers the intimate and extraordinary emotional intensity, ambivalence and pain associated with the experience of mother social workers engaging with mothers and their infants in the context of child protection work. In this yearlong study undertaken with a group of female Irish child protection social workers, their role as mothers was an unanticipated emergent theme and was found to be inextricably linked to their work and their capacity for realistic decision-making. We consider the wider contexts of societal ambivalence about motherhood, mothering and social work itself, as a way of locating these experiences as fully psycho-social. The work discussion seminars offered as part of the research study afforded a rare opportunity for workers to talk about predicaments, failures and worries, in conditions of containment for anxiety, support for their learning, and a confidential reflective setting.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Social work practice, Child protection, Emotion, Mothers, Reflective practice
Subjects: Children, Young People and Developmental Pyschology > Child Protection
Social Welfare > Social Welfare Personnel
Social Welfare > Social Work
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services

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