Development and evaluation of a training programme for forensic social workers working with child sexual abuse
Phillips, Catherina Gezina Johanna
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Currently only one accredited training programme exists for forensic social workers working with sexually abused children. This training is lectured as a Master’s degree at the North-West University. Professionals are urgently seeking for a training programme that delivers in-service training in the forensic social work field. Section A refers to the problem statement, research objectives, research procedures and research methodology. The keywords as well as the limitations of the research are discussed. The research was conducted in phases. In phase one the researcher studied international and local literature and the knowledge and skills a forensic social worker ought to possess were emphasized and discussed. The second phase focused on the needs analyses and in subsequent phases on the development and evaluation of the training programme The problem statement in Section A is based on the following: In South Africa only one postgraduate qualification currently exists in forensic practice for social workers that investigate the sexual abuse of children. Currently any professional person can conduct such an investigation. Forensic social work is a specialist field in the social work profession and not all social workers are qualified to work with sexually abused children. The incidence of sexual abuse of children in South Africa is distressful. In sexual abuse investigations the outcome of the forensic social worker’s assessment of the child is often relied on. The forensic social worker fulfils an important role in uncovering the truth and in documenting sexual abuse by means of assessments. A poor assessment by an untrained professional can have devastating consequences for both the child and the accused. Often the child and the offender are the only witnesses to the crime; therefore it is crucial that the investigation be conducted effectively. It is important for professionals conducting assessments to be specially trained in the forensic social work field. As previously mentioned only one institution is currently presenting postgraduate training for social workers interested in the field of forensic social work. A need has been identified for a training programme for social workers that choose to receive in-service training in the forensic field. This problem statement resulted in the following research goal of the study as well as the four research objectives indicated below: Goal: Development and evaluation of a training programme for forensic social workers working with child sexual abuse. * Objectives * To investigate by means of a literature study what specialised knowledge and skills are needed to fulfil the roles and functions of a forensic social worker working with sexually abused children (Article 1). * To identify by means of a literature study as well as an empirical investigation, the knowledge and needs of the role-players concerning training for forensic social workers (Article 2). * To identify by means of a literature study as well as the information gathered from experts in the field of forensic investigations during the previous phase, what the content should be of a training programme for forensic social workers working with child sexual abuse (Article 3). * To design a training programme for forensic social workers working with sexually abused children (Adendum 1) * To evaluate the developed training programme by means of an empirical study with professional role-players in cases of child sexual abuse (Article 4). The research was subdivided into phases. Qualitative data were mainly utilised. The literature studies focused on the specialised knowledge and skills forensic social workers need to possess. Section B consists of the four articles in which the research goals and research outcomes are reported. Each article is dealt with as a self-contained unit focusing on specific research objectives achieved via specific research methods. These methods were employed to collect the necessary data for developing and evaluating the forensic training programme. Article 1 The objective of this article was to identify and discuss, by means of a literature study, the most important specialised skills and knowledge a forensic social worker should possess. An investigation into the existing literature pointed out that social workers working in the forensic field must possess specialised training and specific knowledge. This specialised training must include all aspects of sexual abuse of children, forensic interviewing, expert witnessing as well as knowledge of the South African legal system. Article 2 The high occurrences of sexual abuse of children demand the professional intervention of forensic social workers. The objective of this article was to establish by means of a literature study as well as an empirical investigation what the knowledge and needs are of professionals working with child sexual abuse in the interest of developing a training programme for forensic social workers. The goal of the article was to use the needs analysis for direction for establishing the content of the training programme for forensic social workers. Article 3 The research goal of this article was to develop a training programme for forensic social workers. The training programme was developed from the results obtained as reported in the previous article, from an in-depth literature study on relevant topics, and from the needs analysis. Article 4 The purpose of this article was to evaluate the developed training programme. This was done through a panel of participants involved in a focus group discussion. The participants involved in the evaluation included magistrates, prosecutors, professionals conducting forensic investigations as well as investigating officers of the South African Police services, Family Violence Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit. The participants were selected by means of purposeful sampling. The results of this research indicated that the content of this developed training programme will sufficiently equip social workers with the required knowledge, skills and expertise to carry out forensic investigations in the forensic field. The contents of the training programme correlates with that literature recommends and meets the needs of experts in the field currently carrying out forensic investigations. Section C is a summary of the findings, and conclusions of the research report are drawn and some recommendations are made. Section D consists of various addenda. Section E contains an integrated bibliography.
- Humanities