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SOWK509 Decision-making in Child Welfare

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 child welfare is complex and requires a broad range of knowledge, skills and reflective capacities. Decision-making in this high stakes environment relies not only on individual practitioners, but is shaped by institutional, cultural and macro influences. This paper explores decision-making in the Aotearoa New Zealand context, and aims to develop critically reflective practitioners.

Paper title Decision-making in Child Welfare
Paper code SOWK509
Subject Social Work
EFTS 0.25
Points 30 points
Teaching period(s) Semester 1 (Distance learning)
Semester 1 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $2,482.25
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

Teaching Arrangements

The Distance Learning offering of this paper is a combination of remote and in-person teaching.

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:

  • 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 the Aotearoa New Zealand context. This includes the influence of colonisation and disparities for Māori.
  • Be able to identify institutional influences on judgement, including organisational cultures, feedback, groupthink, team decision-making processes, interprofessional decision making and the influence of the resource environment
  • Understand the individual drivers of decision making, including values and beliefs, cultural differences, cognitive processes (including biases), and the interpretive and dialogic nature of decision making
  • Be able to describe differing approaches to, and processes of, decision making in the child welfare environment. Approaches include actuarial/predictive, professional discretion, safety-oriented, Kaupapa Māori and relationship-based practice approaches. Processes include participatory practice with children and whānau, and culturally diverse decision-making processes.
  • Be able to apply relevant research in the areas of risk, safety, trauma, ethics, parenting capacity, and participation to decision making practice.

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Semester 1

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

Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Wednesday 13:00-14:50 11-13, 16-21


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Thursday 10:00-15:50 22
Friday 10:00-15:50 10