Decision, risk and uncertainty. Withdrawal or reunification of children and young people in danger?

  • Paulo Delgado Ferreira Instituto Politécnico do Porto,
  • João M.S. Carvalho
  • Vânia S. Pinto
  • Teresa Martins
Keywords: welfare services, child abuse, risk assessment, decision making, foster care

Abstract

This study aims to better understand what influences and determines decisions in contexts characterized by complexity and uncertainty, and contributes to the development of recommendations for practice. Based on the work of Davidson-Arad and Benbenishty (2008, 2010), we intended to understand how students from higher education, in scientific areas related to professions involved in decision making processes of children and young people at risk individual care plan, would decide in the presence of a specific case with different scenarios. Participated in the study 200 university students from different regions of Portugal. We used a factorial design (2×2) that involved a questionnaire vignette with four versions. The questionnaire describes the case of a child suspected of being a victim of violence and requires the students to make a decision about the kind of intervention that should be applied in that moment. In addition they must also decide, if the child was removed from her home, whether or not the child should be reunited with the biological family after two years. Among the key findings we highlight the fact that students recognized the risk posed to the child as suffering significant physical and emotional harm. Nevertheless, most decided in favour of an intervention with the biological family, avoiding the removal of the child from their life context. However, in the case of a decision favouring foster care, the majority of the students considered that the child should remain with the foster family when they were asked to reassess the case after two years. It is noted, with statistical significance, that the decision was influenced at first by the agreement or not of the mother to withdrawal and secondly by the child’s desire to be reunited or not with the birth family. We concluded that the development of professional evaluation criteria and decision making should be addressed by including in the curriculum of higher education programmes in the field of child protection, the study of the criteria for the withdrawal, the conditions for the reunification and the advantages of involving the child and the biological family in the intervention.

Author Biographies

Paulo Delgado Ferreira, Instituto Politécnico do Porto,
Licenciado em Direito, mestre em Administração da Educação e Doutor em Ciências da Educação pela Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, com agregação em Ciências da Educação na UTAD – Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro. É membro integrado no CIEC, Centro de Investigação em Estudos da Criança, da Universidade do Minho, e no InED, Centro de Investigação & Inovação em Educação, da Escola Superior de Educação do Instituto Politécnico do Porto. Autor de diversos artigos científicos e livros, desenvolve a sua atividade de docência e de investigação na área Pedagogia Social, dos direitos da criança, do acolhimento familiar e da tomada de decisões nos sistemas de proteção.
João M.S. Carvalho
É investigador no CICS.NOVA (Centro Interdisciplinar em Ciências Sociais – Universidade Nova de Lisboa e Universidade do Minho), e Professor no Instituto Universitário da Maia (ISMAI). É membro colaborador do InED, da Escola Superior do Instituto Politécnico do Porto;É Licenciado em Gestão de Empresas, Mestre em Economia e Doutor em Ciências Empresariais. Tem lecionado em licenciaturas e mestrados nas áreas do Serviço Social, Psicologia e Ciências Empresariais. Também tem sido formador e consultor em muitas organizações, nomeadamente do setor social. Tem publicado diversos livros, capítulos de livros e artigos em revistas científicas internacionais
Vânia S. Pinto
Licenciatura em Ciências Psicológicas e Mestrado Integrado em Psicologia área Clínica pelo Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisboa. Cursos de Pós-graduação em “Proteção de Menores”, pela Faculdade de Direito, Universidade de Coimbra e “Análise de dados em Ciências Sociais” pelo ISCTE-Instituto Universitário de Lisboa. A frequentar programa doutoral no Rees Centre, Department of Education, University of Oxford. Membro colaborador do INED, da Escola Superior de Educação do Instituto Politécnico do Porto. Destacam-se como principais áreas de investigação: medidas de promoção e proteção de crianças e jovens, acolhimento familiar e definição de critérios de qualidade.
Teresa Martins
Teresa MartinsEducadora Social e docente na Escola Superior de Educação do Politécnico do Porto.Licenciada em Educação Social pela Escola Superior de Educação do Politécnico do Porto (2007) e Mestre em Gerontologia Social pelo Instituto Superior de Serviço Social do Porto (2012), frequenta atualmente o Programa Doutoral em Gerontologia e Geriatria do ICBAS/ UP e Universidade de Aveiro. É docente da Unidade Técnico-científica de Ciências da Educação da ESE.IPP e investigadora do InEd – Centro de Investigação e Inovação em Educação da ESE.IPP.

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Published
2016-06-09