Many of you are already aware, but we’re excited to finally post about the release of UNE School of Social Work Director, Shelley Cohen Konrad’s PhD, LCSW, FNAP second edition of Child and Family Practice: A Relational Perspective. The book was published in December 2019 and is available now for purchase!
Child and Family Practice: A Relational Perspective, Second Edition presents important guidelines and principles for working successfully with children, their families, and their service-providing organizations. Grounded in the traditional social work theories of relationship, the book emphasizes three core concepts: relational connection, evidence-guided knowledge, and reflexivity. Cohen Konrad’s goal is to help students connect science, theory, and the human qualities necessary to effect positive change and inspire hope in the lives of children and their families.
For more information and/or to purchase the book, visit: OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
Reflections for Shelley Cohen Konrad PhD, LCSW, FNAP:
Writing the second edition was more difficult than I had anticipated. Monumental social, political and cultural shifts were affecting the lives of children and their families in ways not anticipated in 2013 and these trends needed to be reflected in new, not simply revised, content. Growing knowledge about trauma influenced how I thought about child and family practice and thus was thematically woven throughout the chapters as was greater emphasis on individual and societal impacts of substance use disorders. In 2013 human trafficking wasn’t thought to be as ubiquitous as we know it is today. Social workers need to be aware of risk factors and ways to prevent or intercede with youth caught in its destructive web.
Over the last decade (2008–-2018), global, social, health care, education, and marketplace trends have undergone changes faster than at any time in recorded history. Instigated by technological, scientific, and communication advances, such rapid-fire changes transform the nature of what we know, how we use information, and how we operate in the workplace. In the past we assumed that “facts were facts,” archived in thick text books and chronicled in peer-reviewed articles. We trusted this information and comfortably used it in our teaching and training.
Although advances in knowledge and technologies are mostly good, improving the quality of life in ways never before imagined, we are simultaneously living in an era of informational uncertainty. Let me explain. We’ve come to appreciate that facts are more fluid and temporary than previously presumed. This is in large part the result of the constant evolution and flow of knowledge that can readily be retrieved if you own or have access to an electronic device. Some information can be validated, while some facts shared as knowledge or truth are evolving or may be more opinion but stated as fact.
An example is the immunization controversy that has influenced young parents’ decisions over the last two decades on whether to have their children vaccinated. The debate began in 1998, after British researchers published findings from a study with 12 children that suggested a causal relationship between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism. Study results were never replicated (a dozen follow-up studies disputed the findings), but they caught fire, receiving significant publicity at a time when autism diagnosis rates were on the rise. For some parents, believing that their child’s autism resulted from being immunized was a relief; for others it stirred pervasive guilt and anger.
The point being made is not about the merits or dangers of immunization. Rather, it’s used to illustrate how easily what is perceived as factual may indeed be opinion or emerging knowledge rather than verifiable or conclusive fact. It’s also an example of how social media can be used for benefit or how it can lead to confusion that affects critical choices and decision -making.
So how do we prepare for child and family practice in these rapidly evolving times? First, we need to stay abreast of emerging research, trends, and practices. We are ethically bound to provide the clients, patients, families, and communities we serve with best practices. Second, we need to be reflexive about where information comes from and whether or not it serves clients responsibly. Are certain theories or methodologies selected because they are cost effective, or do they achieve optimal outcomes? Similarly, are cultural, socioeconomic, or racial biases perpetuated by theories used for research, policy development, and/or practice?
In the words of the great Bob Dylan, times are always changin’. Are there then timeless skills that endure? I would suggest there are, and, in fact, an aggregate of qualities that 21st- century employers are looking for include the following: good communication, emotional intelligence and empathy, ability to work in teams, problem-solving and critical thinking capacities, determination and persistence, flexibility, honesty, active pursuit of knowledge, reflectivity, kindness, and, of course, technical savvy. It was my intention that the evidence, standpoint, and lived wisdom woven throughout this text supports both what is currently known about children, their families, and the culture of childhood and illustrates the enduring skills and attitudes needed to meet the complex and growing needs of children and families living in a very complicated world. I hope to have achieved this end.
Given the depth and scope of research available to inform practice, it’s concerning that health institutions rather than embracing relational models are in fact moving away from them. It’s my hope that the integration of scientific evidence, social science research, and practice wisdom offered in this text will provide readers with both knowledge and inspiration to lead necessary and critical changes in the way we think about and offer services to children and their families. Becoming agents of change on their behalf is especially important given the increasing numbers of children in the United States and Canada identified with mental health issues, many of which arise because life is simply too hard or incredibly unfair. It’s our responsibility to work with and for these youngsters because they have no visibility in local, state, province, or federal programmatic and policy development.
-Shelley Cohen Konrad PhD, LCSW, FNAP