Chan, Hiu tung vivian (2019) Understanding the Practice of Frontline Child Protection Social Workers Working with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Families. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.


All social workers, regardless of their cultural or ethnic background, have to work with Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) families. Cultural competency is of considerable importance in social work practice. Existing literature has focused on the reasons why BAME families come into contact with children’s services, the challenges social workers face when working with these families and the numerous meanings attached to cultural competence. There is limited research on how, and whether, practitioners in England (and elsewhere) practise cultural competence in frontline child protection contexts. Focusing on child protection, the present research aimed to understand current cultural competence practice among social workers working with BAME families.


Nine current or former social workers took part in one to one, semi-structured interviews. Inclusion criteria for participants was at least five years’ experience in child protection social work. Participants had an average of ten years social work practice. Five social workers identified themselves as ‘White’, three as ‘Asian or Asian British’, and one as ‘Black or African or Caribbean or Black British’. All but one of the participants were working or had worked as social workers in the Midlands; the remaining participant had worked in London. All the participants, between them, were working, or had worked in four different local authorities. Six participants were currently employed as frontline staff, two as managers and one was now a University social work lecturer. Six of the participants reported having worked with 60 or more BAME families. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the interview data.


Six major themes emerged from the data. The present study found that social workers, when working with BAME families, had to: (i) understand the BAME family’s unique experiences, networks and knowledge of public services; (ii) value community as a resource, while acknowledging how community may have ‘hidden’ problems, and understand communities better; (iii) explore culture by realising culture is not an excuse for abuse, learn about cultural differences, and recognise the influence of culture on roles within families; (iv) use interpreters to ensure accurate communication with BAME family members, maintain the quality of interpreters, assess relationship between interpreters and families, use an interpreter skilfully and have training in using interpreters. To improve their cultural competency in child protection practice, social workers have to: (v) engage in continuing professional development - using online resources, conducting their own research, and consulting with community organisations or ethnic-specific services, specialised teams and interpreters; (vi) reflect as a practitioner, no matter whether a BAME or White social worker, and reflect on one another’s practices to ensure BAME families are treated equally and fairly.


Social workers need to acknowledge the uniqueness of each BAME (and White) family and their experiences. The present study recommends that participants incorporate intersectionality and the social model of child protection when working with BAME families. In terms of policy, consideration should be given to greater public education on public services or supports available, and on “acceptable” child-rearing practice. A community’s resources should be utilised to help ensure the wellbeing of children. Social work educators should train would be social workers on how to work effectively with interpreters and how to take an experiential learning approach to improve their ability to work with BAME families. In practice, social workers need to learn more about, and better understand, BAME families, communities and cultures. Social workers also need to use interpreters appropriately, and to continuously learn and reflect as a practitioner. Further research is needed to fully appreciate the different aspects of social work practice with BAME families, to understand these children and parents’ perspectives on child protection interventions, and to improve partnership working with ethnic-specific agencies to identify better ways to support these families.

FINAL THESIS - CHAN, H.pdf - Accepted Version
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