Colligation in child welfare work: Decision-making on the tipping point.


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SAGE Publications

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This article reports on a single-case study of a decision-making process in child welfare. Based on analysis of field notes, research interviews with caseworkers and case documents, the study explored caseworkers’ handling of ambiguity and uncertainty in a case of possible neglect on the tipping point between home-based and out-of-home care. The prospective study followed events and activities in the case of a family consisting of a mother, a father and newborn twins, reflecting real process in real time. Data were gathered in a local frontline child welfare office in a Norwegian town, and decision-making was studied as a process of sequential colligation rather than as a linear and cumulative effort. The findings suggest that the caseworkers’ individual commitment to and felt responsibility for the outcome led to a quest for documentation, making the process of decision-making more challenging. The search for decisive evidence may contribute to prolonged casework and postponed closure in cases on the tipping point.




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