Activity: Participating in or organising a conference or workshop › Participating in a conference or workshop › Research
Contemporary social work with young people and their families is facing major challenges with the advent of the Internet and social media, particularly in the sphere of fostering. The identified challenges are concerned with issues of safeguarding that are related more often than not to threats outside of the familial home (Firmin, 2013). Another significant challenge includes the relevance of child protection processes and systems that are currently geared towards children under ten years of age (Gorin and Jobe, 2013; Hanson and Holmes, 2014; The Association of Directors of Children’s Services, 2013 and the Department of Education, 2014).
It will be argued that the challenges outlined are being managed using a psychologically informed model of social work which is reliant upon theoretical approaches such as ecological, systems and attachment theories, all of which have a predisposition to individual pathology and the ability of the service users to change if the correct social work intervention is applied (Goodyer, 2012). This model of social work as it relates to fostered young people means that behaviours such as irresponsibility, immaturity and an inability to comprehend the possible consequences feed into the taken for granted assumption that there is a link between vulnerability and risk (Goodyer, 2012; Fursland, 2011; and Stephenson, 2009).
This discussion paper will explore how risk and vulnerability involving fostered young people and their use of the Internet and social media is managed using a psychologically informed model of social work. This exploration will not only give attention to the manifestations of this type of practice as it relates to fostered children, there will also be a focus on the shortcomings of the model. The discussion will move on to look at an alternative practice model that is informed by the sociology of childhood. An argument will be made that this model of practice can effectively be used to the meet the challenges of safeguarding fostered young people in a technological age where the importance of the mobile phone is vital as a mode of communication and connection in the often complex familial and friendship networks that characterise their lives and perception of risk (Carrick-Davies, 2012). It will also be argued that this alternative model not only provides an opportunity to develop with fostered young people a partnership that promotes a shared goal of protection but also, a way of working that allows their experiences to be heard and validated.