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SOWK509 Decision-making in Child Welfare

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Critical examination, using the decision-making ecology framework, of macro, institutional and individual decision-maker influences on decision making in response to child abuse and neglect.

Decision making in the context of child welfare is complex. It is seldom straightforward and requires a broad range of knowledge, skills and reflective capacities. It relies not only on the individual practitioner, but is also shaped by institutional, cultural and macro contexts. This paper explores decision-making research, with a view to contributing to critical and thoughtful practitioners.

Paper title Decision-making in Child Welfare
Paper code SOWK509
Subject Social Work
EFTS 0.25
Points 30 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2022, expected to be offered in 2024 (Distance learning)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $2,415.75
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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SOWK 409
Limited to

Teaching staff

Associate Professor; Emily Keddell

Paper Structure
  • Module one: Understanding the child welfare decision-making environment
  • Module two: Who is 'at risk'?
  • Module three: Individual factors impacting on decision making
  • Module four: Different approaches to decision making in response to risk
  • Module five: Risk, safety and harm
  • Module six: Ethical and moral aspects of decision making
Teaching Arrangements

There are two compulsory workshops for this paper - one at the start and one at the end of semester.

Readings will be provided online. There is no set text.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Critical thinking, Ethics, Cultural understanding.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the paper will

  1. Be able to critically analyse the child welfare decision-making environment, recognising the legal, ethical, social, cultural and political dimensions shaping the parameters of decision-making in this context
  2. Be able to identify institutional influences on judgement, including organisational cultures, feedback, groupthink, participatory decision-making processes, interprofessional decision-making and the influence of the resource environment
  3. Understand the individual drivers of decision-making, including values and beliefs, cultural differences, cognitive processes, and the situated, interpretive and dialogic nature of decision-making
  4. Be able to describe differing approaches to decision-making in the child welfare environment, specifically actuarial, professional discretion, safety-oriented and relationship-based practice approaches
  5. Be able to apply relevant research in the areas of risk, safety and harm, trauma, ethics, parental and child participation and parenting capacity to decision-making

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Not offered in 2022, expected to be offered in 2024

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system