Social work practice in the early years : a focus on wellbeing : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Work at Massey University, New Zealand

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This thesis examined social workers' perspectives of effective social work practice in the early years of children’s lives. Through analysing first-person accounts from social workers, this research project sought to gain an understanding of what practices social workers believe contribute to wellbeing and to good outcomes for families during the preschool years. This thesis also examined barriers to effective practice as identified by the participants. In order to achieve this aim, 10 semi-structured interviews were carried out with social workers all of whom had worked in the profession for at least two years. These interviews were thematically analysed using a qualitative inductive approach. The research found that the support relationship social workers build with families is crucial to ensuring good outcomes, as is working collaboratively with other agencies, and working to support families where structural and systemic issues create challenges for family life. Participants also described a number of factors that impeded their ability to achieve this effective practice, including expectations from agencies and funding bodies that limited the time they could spend with families, and a lack of support for enacting change at a structural level. Findings from this research have implications for all social work service providers supporting families in the early years. The findings indicated that service providers have a responsibility to ensure that social workers have the time and skills to develop a strong supportive relationship with families. Furthermore, service providers working with families in the early years must consider how social workers are supported to: collaborate with other agencies; and to identify and work to change structural issues that impact on family life and compromise wellbeing. Further research and exploration is needed to determine the factors that contribute to effective practice including the best ways of supporting service providers and social workers to engage in interventions at the micro, meso, and macro levels and facilitate wellbeing for families in the early years.
Social work with children|zNew Zealand, Family social work|zNew Zealand, Social workers|zNew Zealand|vInterviews, Social workers|zNew Zealand|xAttitudes