Beginning practice in child protection: a blended learning approach

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McPherson, L & Barnett, M 2006, 'Beginning practice in child protection: a blended learning approach', Social Work Education, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 192-198.

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Statutory child protection is arguably one of the most complex and challenging areas of work within the welfare sector. In the state of Victoria, Australia, the child protection service is delivered by a state government department, the Department of Human Services, employing over 900 staff. A significant proportion of its recruitment is achieved through employing new graduates from a diverse educational base (e.g. social work, psychology and welfare). This convergence of circumstances, inexperienced workers with a variety of professional education backgrounds, beginning work in a complex, highly scrutinised professional domain, creates a unique challenge for in‐service educators responsible for induction. The ‘Beginning Practice in Child Protection’ programme is an attempt to meet this challenge, employing multi‐modal learning resources, interactive skills based clinics combined with workplace learning opportunities structured to deliver just‐in‐time messages. In addition, on‐line ‘virtual vignettes’ that support learning at the employee workstation are utilised. Evaluation findings suggest this programme is successful in achieving its aims of a supported introduction to the work, increasing worker confidence and satisfaction while leading to quality knowledge and skills acquisition. This paper will establish the context for child protection practice in Victoria, describe the programme designed to address the need, before highlighting key messages arising from an independent evaluation.

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