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Home > Arhiva > 2014 > Numar: 3 > Social Work Assessment of a Family with an Abused Child: Compulsory Intervention in Italian and Swedish Public Social Services

 Social Work Assessment of a Family with an Abused Child: Compulsory Intervention in Italian and Swedish Public Social Services

  • Paolo Guidi (Malmö University, Faculty of Health and Society, Nordenskiöldsgatan 8, 20506 Malmö (Sweden). E-mail:, University of Genoa, School of Social Science, Via balbi 5, 16126 Genova (Italy). E-mail:

Social workers’ assessments represent a relevant theme in social work research and practice. The question of how social workers consider child and family problems and what is seen as appropriate interventions has been a point of debate in the literature and practice during the last decades, in particular when it deals with children at risk of maltreatment and abuse. This study develops a previous research among Nordic countries and is based on a cross-national comparison between Sweden and Italy. It aims to highlight tendencies in social work practice, in particular when compulsory measures are at stake. A questionnaire including a vignette story of a four-year-old child and his family, previously proposed to social workers in Stockholm, is now submitted to two groups of social workers employed in public social services in Malmö (Sweden) and Genoa (Italy). The cross-country comparison reveals commonalities and differences in social work practice protection tendencies in relation to two national child protection systems. Results show high commonalities between Italian and Swedish social workers’ assessments at the level of practice. Italian social workers are, in general, more interventionist than are their Swedish counterparts. Elements of difference influencing the assessments are found on a major level in the child protection legislative framework with reference to the reporting system and the authoritative mandate allowing social workers to act without parental consent. At the local level the social and health services network affect the different practices and interventions social workers assume to be appropriate in the two local contexts.

Keywords: comparative studies, assessment, social work, child protection, vignette