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The helping professions have long understood that secondary traumatic stress and its counterparts of burnout, compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma are a problem for workers in the field. However, less is known about the impact of the issue on students who have placements. Using the Secondary Traumatic Stress Scale (STSS), this quantitative research study seeks to explore if a convenience sample of 45 students on two programmes in the field was affected. The results show several non-significant results, suggesting that the number of weekly caring responsibility hours did not predict perceived STSS scores after placement and that high-scoring students have shown no significant difference in STSS scores before and after placement. Overall, we also found that the subsample of ten students with caring responsibilities had higher STSS scores. The article discusses well-being in students generally, incorporating trauma-informed perspectives. While no students in this study were affected, the discussion examines what can be done to better support students from an ecological perspective to protect and prepare them for their placements and future careers. Finally, this article calls for policy and practice in education and the curricula of the helping professions to routinely incorporate awareness of the issues in training and supervision.

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Over recent years, the number of refugee families with children fleeing to Europe has increased. Although reception centres in Europe are not equipped to host families with children, families nevertheless remain for extensive periods in these collective centres, where they lack autonomy, privacy, certainty and often even a sense of security. Drawing on 123 interviews with parents (58), children (38) and social workers (38) in nine collective reception centres in Belgium, we analyse how the Belgian asylum regime impacts refugee parents’ capacity to fulfil parental roles and responsibilities and social workers’ relationships with refugee parents. Our analysis points to a complex combination of declining parental agency yet increasing responsibility on behalf of refugee parents across different parental roles and responsibilities. This in turn leads children to take on what are typically considered ‘adult roles’, raising concerns about parentification among social workers. By introducing the term ‘institutionalized forms of parentification’, we call for a re-politicization of social work with refugee families. Moving away from common approaches to family relationships that focus primarily on the individual or the family system, our findings draw attention to the impact of social spaces, policies and cultural value systems.

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Dementia affects memory, language and motor functions, engenders behavioural and psychological disorders, and progressively weakens the ability of older people to communicate and interact. Simultaneously, maintaining residents in social exchanges and enabling them to behave as a ‘person’, a status to be understood in moral terms, is a main objective of care work in nursing homes. Based on an ethnographic study conducted in a long-term Swiss care facility and by focusing on professionals’ inquiries, this article uncovers two ‘arts of doing’ used by professionals to make contact with residents and maintain them in the fabric of relationships. First, ‘sensitive arts of doing’ are in play when professionals seek to interpret a situation from a resident’s gestures and emotions in order to (re)establish the fine-tuning necessary for continued interaction. Second, ‘hermeneutic arts of doing’ are employed when professionals try to determine how residents perceive their environment and elucidate how to make sense of what they are doing together. Highlighting these two ‘arts of doing’ gives depth and substance to the relational activities undertaken by professionals and proposes concrete methods that can support care, interaction and value-based practice with older people with dementia.

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The biennial conferences on Decisions, Assessment, Risk and Evidence in Social Work have reached a new milestone. Running in Belfast since 2010, the 2024 conference will be held in Zurich, Switzerland, 20–21 June. This article describes the journey to date and provides information for those interested in attending future conferences. This short article also includes some reflective comment on the contribution of the Decisions, Assessment, Risk and Evidence in Social Work conferences to learning and to the research community.

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The Decisions, Assessment and Risk Special Interest Group of the European Social Work Research Association (DARSIG) dedicated a pre-conference event at the 2023 European Conference for Social Work Research in Milan, Italy, to the application of innovations using big data and machine-learning algorithms in social work risk assessment and decision-making processes. Here, we share some ideas from these discussions.

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This study set out to gain a better understanding of how family meetings are facilitated and experienced in an Irish rehabilitation hospital setting from the perspectives of interdisciplinary team (IDT) members, patients and their family members. This article reports the findings from IDT members’ perspectives. A critical-realist action-research approach was utilised that involved medical social workers (N = 15) and a social work academic. A quantitative, descriptive study design was adopted, which utilised a cross-sectional survey of IDT members. A total of 85 clinical staff responded to the questionnaire, of which 69 were fully completed. Four key themes emerged: pre-meeting engagement and preparation – a critical step; the impact of organisational structures; supporting participation; and mechanisms for effective family meetings. Findings indicate the importance of pre-meeting preparation, the mutuality of the relationships between participants, a standardised approach and the use of patient-centred and inclusive practices to achieve truly participatory family meetings. Family meetings involve complex processes in which mutual influence, context, preferences, values, information shared, the nature of the relationships involved and the communicative style of participants all play significant roles in both the process and decision-making outcomes. This study concluded that social workers are perhaps in a unique position to work with IDTs in clarifying the reality of the limits of choice and the involvement of the patient and family in rehabilitation hospital settings. In preparation for the role of family-meeting facilitation, the implementation of education and training programmes for IDT members is strongly recommended.

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This article examines the challenges encountered during a collaborative project involving research and practice in a Norwegian municipality. The objective of the project was to apply co-creation by involving users, employees and researchers in the development of coordinated, flexible and knowledge-based services, with a strong emphasis on user-centeredness. However, the project faced several obstacles that hindered its progress. In this article, we adopt a ‘what if’ perspective to explore alternative scenarios, identifying pivotal moments in the project and envisioning how alternative realities could have facilitated some of the fulfilment of its initial intentions. We argue that co-creation represents a mindset shift within the public sector, emphasising relational practices and embracing the inherent uncertainty associated with welfare service provision. By engaging in second-level inquiry, we propose that organisations can develop a co-creative logic that prioritises flexibility, innovation, involvement and ongoing evaluation, moving away from traditional reliance on routines, manuals and measurable outputs.

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Measuring quality in communication is imperative for social work education, practice and research, but what does it take? This article describes the challenges faced by social workers in developing a set of scales and a coding framework for measuring quality in statutory social work communication between social workers and vulnerable young people. By sharing and reflecting on our experiences, we hope to offer other colleagues support in performing a similarly challenging task. A large body of filmed meetings from six different municipalities formed the basis for developing and testing the scales. All meetings between participants in the research process were taped, analysed and combined with field notes and coding results to identify the different challenges. The research process underlined not only that quality in statutory social work communication is a complex and context-dependent phenomenon but also that the process of quantifying and coding can generate new insights into the phenomenon. The analysis identifies that the quantitative translation of statutory social work communication created four different key challenges: ‘Struggling with context’; ‘When theory does not match reality’; ‘Unforgivable mistakes’; and ‘The relativistic no man’s land’.

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In this article, we discuss the challenges in engaging with research participants from marginalised communities, including from some minority communities where there are interconnecting issues of poverty, racism, school exclusion, family breakdown and sometimes youth crime. This is aligned with experiences of developing research partnerships with local services in evaluation work. Two research case studies, from evaluation research with child and family social work and the youth justice system, discuss experiences of researching within inner-city areas, navigating researcher–practitioner relationships and maintaining ethical research standards. In both cases, entering the research field presented challenges related to sensitivities and distress experienced by participants. Our case-study discussions demonstrate how the researchers responded to risk and unwitting involvement with young people in conflict, in prison and experiencing family bereavement. Highlighted is the vital importance of local agencies providing accurate information about the families and young people that the researchers are asked to contact in order to ensure that respect and research ethics are upheld and no trauma is caused. Planning and building trust are key to ensuring that time is given for respectful engagement and that agencies are ready for ongoing support and follow-up as needed. The article will explore how these methodological considerations can be taken forward.

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