Method: Twenty-eight in depth, semi structured interviews were conducted with three main groups: front line child welfare workers who have social work degrees, social work educators teaching courses related to child welfare, and key informants in leadership and administrative roles related to child welfare delivery systems. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using constructivist grounded theory.
Results: Data analysis revealed the complexity of child protection work and the need for social work education to reflect this reality. Findings suggest that teaching methods and experiences that prepare students for day-to-day practice as well as social change are necessary. Participants described transformative experiences in the classroom through experiential learning, peer learning, self-awareness, and critical thinking. Participants highlighted that learning multiple perspectives, having realistic portrayals of the field, learning in safe spaces, having a commitment to life-long learning, and understanding personal wellness are elements that facilitate transformative learning. Findings also revealed opportunities for interdisciplinary learning and collaboration between social work education and child welfare agencies.
Conclusion/Implications: Child protection services present unique challenges for social workers between helping and controlling. Barriers continue to exist between anti-oppressive frameworks and practice. The findings provide a framework for social work education to promote and deliver transformative learning experiences that help students deconstruct oppressive perspectives and paradigms and learn alternative more culturally responsive approaches to child welfare. Numerous recommendations for social work educators and child welfare services are offered.