Powerful short film unites shared perspectives on child welfare and protection

Recognition Matters project aims to strengthen practice and improve the experience of families

Date posted

29 June 2020


A powerful short film – which unites the perspectives of six women on child welfare and protection – has been created as part of a knowledge exchange project aimed at improving the experience of families involved in these processes.

The Recognition Matters project was a collaborative initiative involving social work academics Dr Ariane Critchley, Edinburgh Napier University, Dr Mary Mitchell, The University of Edinburgh, three City of Edinburgh Council social work practitioners and a mother with life story experience.

The project saw all six individuals come together to combine research findings with their stories of lived and practice experience within child protection and welfare.

Social worker, Nicky Hunter, Julie Falconer, Team Leader within the City of Edinburgh Council’s Family Group Decision Making division and Heather Rush, a Family Group Decision Making co-ordinator within the same team, shared their experiences of working in partnership with families to create safe plans for children.

The team were fortunate to recruit Azaria Faver, an inspirational young mother who had experience of child welfare processes in her own pregnancy, and was already contributing to social work education and training from her lived experience.

Azaria was using drugs when she became pregnant and her story is recounted in the first output of the Recognition Matters project ‘Azaria’s Story’; a powerful short film which features Azaria sharing her experiences of pre-birth child protection and being part of a Family Group Conference for her child. In the film – which can be viewed here – she also explains how important the relationships she made with professionals were for her, and her family.

After recording Azaria’s Story, the team organised a seminar and invited people from across Scotland with the power to make a difference in child welfare and protection. At this event, the film was shown and the team shared research findings, practice wisdom, and life story experience.

This process led to a longer film, ‘Recognition Matters’, being created which brings all of these messages together. The film is designed to be shown in teaching, training, and to be shared with families who are going through child welfare processes. It is supported by an accompanying briefing which is available here.

Watch Recognition Matters

The Recognition Matters project has been funded by the College of Arts and Humanities Knowledge Exchange fund at the University of Edinburgh and the School of Health and Social Care Public Engagement fund at Edinburgh Napier, with additional funds from the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science’s 2018 Impact Prize.

The seeds for the project were sown when both Dr Mitchell and Dr Critchley recently completed their ESRC funded PhDs within the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh.

Dr Mitchell’s research investigated the contribution Family Group Conferencing makes towards outcomes for children at risk of being accommodated. Dr Critchley’s research focused on the relationship between social workers and families during pre-birth child protection processes.

Despite both PhDs being very different, there was overlap in research findings.

Both found that families placed a great importance on the process behind the decision making regarding a child’s future – not just on whether a family can stay together.

For both, this is a message that has underpinned all activity throughout the knowledge exchange project.

Dr Ariane Critchley said: “The Recognition Matters knowledge exchange project began with a conversation between Mary and myself about our doctoral findings. We were fascinated by the fact that we had both found that process mattered a great deal to families, not only outcomes. We are both motivated to strengthen and support child care and protection practice and we were lucky to be able to build a team with three experienced social workers and Azaria, who is a truly inspirational speaker and trainer.

“We have all been delighted by the national and international response to the Recognition Matters resources and our work. It has been a joy to work on this project and I hope the resources will support social work practice and education in many settings, and be made available to families going through child welfare processes.”

Dr Mary Mitchell said: “It’s been a privilege being involved in this project and to see a nut of an idea grow into a useful resource for social work practitioners and families. The film highlights how family members need to feel ‘recognised’ in order to be able to participate fully in key decisions affecting them. As one social worker pointed out: Azaria’s powerful story shows what it means when love, respect and solidarity are part of child protection processes.”

All films created as part of the Recognition Matters project can be viewed here.

Edinburgh Napier’s new MSW in Social Work is now open for applications. This new course is designed for graduates who wish to qualify as a social worker within a two-year timeframe.

The postgraduate programme is unique in that it has been developed alongside Edinburgh Napier’s MSc Physiotherapy and MSc Occupational Therapy programmes to prepare students to work effectively within the complex and rapidly evolving environment of health and social care.

More information on the MSW in Social Work can be found here.