“Moving out of the safe zone”: Promoting learning communities and reflective supervision in a social work statutory child protection agency

Matt Rankine, Andrew Thompson

Abstract


INTRODUCTION: Social work supervision in statutory child protection settings is often confused with line management and has little focus on professional development, critical reflection and exploration of practice. Within Aotearoa New Zealand, the statutory child protection agency Oranga Tamariki (OT), is under considerable scrutiny regarding the management of risk, child abuse, and the over-representation of Ma ̄ori tamariki within the child welfare system. This article covers the first collection of findings from a larger supervision study.

METHODS: Using critical reflection as the methodological lens, four experienced OT supervisors participated in a learning community where supervision recordings were brought to each meeting to improve reflective capacity, critical reflection and skills. Data were collected from the learning community and thematic analysis was undertaken to explore current supervision practice in OT.

FINDINGS: The three themes generated from the learning community discussions were: supervisory skills/interventions; the structure of supervision; and working with emotion and trauma. These themes highlighted the significance of the learning community as a forum for supervisors to share their existing supervision practice together, “moving out of the safe zone” as they engaged in positive and constructive feedback with their colleagues in a supportive space.

CONCLUSIONS: Reflective supervision, within statutory child protection, is essential for learning, critical reflection and cultivating robust decision making in social work practice. The creation and development of professional supervision spaces such as learning communities provide the basis for supervisors and supervisees to develop their skills and ensure accountable, anti-oppressive and ethical practice.


Keywords


Supervision; social work; critical reflection; learning communities; professional practice

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol33iss2id871

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