Dealing with 'youth at risk' in child and family social work: In search of a critical-reflexive social work profession.

01 October 2021 → 30 September 2024
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Education, culture and society not elsewhere classified
    • Social work not elsewhere classified
(youth at) risk social work professional interpretive research
Project description

Research evidence in the academic discipline of social work shows that social work professionals are increasingly expected to protect societies from the risk that vulnerable or potentially dangerous populations pose rather than to realize their rights. This research project specifically focuses on the domain of child & family social work with ‘youth at risk’ and aims to add to the currently sparse theoretical and empirical knowledge base on how the social work profession can realize the rights of ‘youth at risk’ in risk- rather than rights-oriented societal and organizational contexts. The project builds on three fundamental premises: (1) risk is a discursive rather than a technical and measurable notion, (2) social work professionals have the ability to ‘speak back’ to constructions of risk that dismiss the social inequalities that characterize the lives of ‘youth at risk’, and (3) ‘youth at risk’ can accept or resist the risk identities that are constructed about them in social work interventions. The project relies on innovative interpretive methodologies to gain insight into the discursive construction and practical operationalization of ‘risk’ at the level of policy, the social work professional and ‘youth at risk’ themselves. The aim is to develop social work theory on how to engage with ‘risk’ from a critical-reflexive professional position, both in the domain of child & family social work and beyond (e.g. in the fields of criminal justice and mental health services).