What Happens in Child and Family Social Work Supervision? - Article Analysis Essay

Published: 2023-04-01
What Happens in Child and Family Social Work Supervision? - Article Analysis Essay
Type of paper:  Article
Categories:  Social work
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1191 words
10 min read


A journal article "What happens in child and family social work supervision?" by Wilkins et al. (2016) explored the supervisory roles of managers and the functions of social workers within children's social care settings. In this article, the term 'supervision' is defined as the mechanism of helping social workers understand their emotional responses and whether it adversely impacts their decision making, as well as their reasoning (Wilkins et al., 2016). Notably, academics, practitioners, and policymakers are in consensus that good supervision is necessary for better social work practices, implying that it is a widely accepted principle in the profession (Wilkins et al., 2016). The authors studied aspects that happen in the family, child, and social work supervision. The primary justification of the research is that there is inadequate evidence that links supervision with outcomes, either for families and children or for the practice (Wilkins et al., 2016). Although the article was based on the recordings of one team, it is insightful and informative, as its findings enhance an understanding of how to incorporate emotions and discussions about risk into child protection social work to improve the quality of the practice.

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Summary of the Article

The authors identified a knowledge gap, which in turn, was used it formulate the primary research question. Before the study, researchers noted that there was almost no comprehensive data to show what transpires between social work professionals, children, and parents during case discussions (Wilkins et al., 2016). From this knowledge gap, they formulated a research question: "what happens in supervision case discussions between child and family social workers and their managers?" (Wilkins et al., 2016, p. 943). The fact that that the article addressed a research gap, in my view, makes it worthwhile and relevant in the field.

Position of the Paper

The authors, notably, made two critical arguments that build the position of the article regarding the competence of family and child social workers and what they should do during supervision case discussions. The first argument is that there is a lack of clarity about risk during engagements between parents, children, and social workers. These professionals, for instance, would not explore in-depth to determine whether risks that expose children to substance use arise from parents consuming or procuring them. The authors argued that often, family and parent social workers tend not to associate such risks to children directly (Wilkins et al., 2016).

The second argument is that there is a general absence of emotions of the worker or families and children. In one exert recording, for example, Wilkins et al. (2016) noted that the managers had to ask how the workers were coping with their tasks because emotional references were largely absent. I think such a situation makes it challenging to understand the feelings of social work professionals and how it impacts their behavior.

Methodology Used and the Findings of the Study

The authors used action research, where they collaborated with managers in diagnosing the problem. However, researchers developed a model to guide the study, especially in analyzing the findings because there was no formal theoretical model of supervision (Wilkins et al., 2016). The approach had three phases, namely, verbal deluge, problem-identification, and, lastly, providing a solution aimed at addressing the issue. The authors researched a London authority, which is extensively known for helping children considered 'at risk' or 'in need.'

The sample size consisted of 12 first-line decision-makers in the organization who were requested to participate in the study (n=12) (Wilkins et al., 2016). However, only one of the 12 executives did not participate in the research (Wilkins et al., 2016). Managers were required to provide researchers with recordings of supervision sessions for analysis. Four executives came up with complete sound recordings to supplement 30 other items that the researchers obtained between September and December 2015 (Wilkins et al., 2016). The authors further used random sampling to pick one piece, which was later transcribed and analyzed. However, only complete recordings that were 10 minutes or longer were considered for selection (Wilkins et al., 2016).

Researchers found that the managers prioritize social work supervision that is emotionally supportive, reflective, analytical, and children-focused. Nonetheless, the supervision that these people offer is not of these things. The authors noted that this situation is not attributed to poor individual practice, but rather emerge as a result of specific organizational contexts. In the analysis of case recordings, researchers found that no particular topics were discussed in-depth, suggesting that the workers may have failed in addressing specific issues. The authors made two conclusions in their stud. First, researchers concluded that there is no clarity in case discussions, and secondly, they lack emotions either of the parent or the worker.

Interpretation and Evaluation of the Article

The main controversy surrounding the subject regards what entails good supervision in family and child social work. Over recent years, there has been a growing concern that supervision should only focus on managerial administration, contrary to a conventional understanding that it also involves support and education (Wilkins et al., 2016). The subject matter is of current interest because Wilkins et al. (2016) said that it is one of the issues that have contributed to a series of reforms in child protection social work for decades. The point that suggests that the topic is of current interest is the argument that supervision ought to focus on performance management because "child protection social work has been in a cycle of crisis and reforms" (Wilkins et al., 2016, p. 942).

The primary weakness of the article is that the study was based on the case discussions of one team. Whereas researchers designed a supervision model that best fits the London authority, it could be different in other settings or organizations. This aspect suggests that the findings do not reflect supervision in all child protection units but rather that of the social care that was studied. Besides, it is possible that selective recording could have occurred since first-line managers did not provide an equal number of case discussions. This aspect is a limitation that adversely impacts the reliability of the article and its use in decision-making. The primary strength of the paper, however, is that the authors had a chance to discuss the results with the senior managers concerned. Also, researchers did not rely on self-report accounts but instead participated directly by listening and recording supervision case discussions.


The study was based on case recordings of one children's social care authority, but its findings are insightful and informative because it emphasizes that discussion about risks should be a critical component of child protection social work. Managers should focus on establishing good supervision in child protection settings because it influences the quality of social work practices. A lack of clarity about risk, besides the absence of emotions during case discussions, adversely impacts problem-solving among child and family social workers. However, there is no specific model that explains what constitutes good supervision, thus the main controversy in the paper. The main skills that I have learned from the article are empathy and social perceptiveness, which refers to being aware of one and other people's emotions.


Wilkins, D., Forrester, D., & Grant, L. (2016). What happens in child and family social work supervision? Child & Family Social Work, 22(2), 942-951. https://doi.org/10.1111/cfs.12314

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