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Decision making in child placement

Stewart, James Kerr (1984) Decision making in child placement. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94676) (KAR id:94676)


This study was undertaken in Kent Social Services Department and was designed to explore in detail the way in which a sample of fifty social workers formed decisions about where to place children who came into their care. Data derived from structured interviews was analysed, using statistical techniques as appropriate, in order to establish which of a range of factors played the most important part in placement decisions. Knowledge of social work theory and research was found not to be very influential. Personal attitudes, based on experience or belief, together with the prevailing ethos and tradition of the local office were found to be the most decisive factors in determining how decisions were reached and which resources were used. There were significant variations in approach between respondents from different local offices. The orientation of qualified and unqualified respondents to professional and bureaucratic values was compared and no significant difference was found. However, qualified social workers did express a greater willingness to make independent case decisions and to act on them and a corresponding reluctance to recognise the managerial and supervisory role of their line manager. This tendency was more pronounced amongst newly qualified staff; more experienced qualified staff were more likely to distinguish between their role in assessing client need and that of their supervisor in mediating between assessed need and organisational constraints. These findings support the statement in the Barclay Report that there is "Confusion and ambiguity among social workers as to how far they were expected to act on their own judgement, and how far they were simply expected to carry out the orders of their department". Overall 70% of the placements which arose from these decisions developed broadly as expected by the social workers concerned. The remaining cases were generally more complex and their outcomes correspondingly harder to anticipate, and of these, the majority consisted of teenagers.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94676
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: social services, childcare, child placements, children in care, fostering, foster placements, adoption
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2023 10:57 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2023 10:57 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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