Knowledge of family competence characteristics and practice decisions

Natalie Zaharkiw-Riccio, Fordham University


In preventive services, it is customary to think that making family-oriented practice decisions are more beneficial, in the long run, for helping families-in-need. However, past research indicates that social workers in agency practice tend more often than not to maintain a strong anti-family bias in their decision-making. In an effort to elucidate this phenomenon, this study examines family service workers in New York City, their levels of knowledge of family competence characteristics and how they used their knowledge to make family orientation practice decisions. In order to study the relationships between personal and professional characteristics of family service workers, their levels of knowledge of family competence characteristics and their family orientation practice decisions, this research used three constructed case vignettes. These case vignettes were constructed to reflect the actual situations encountered by family service workers in their daily social service activities, and addressed whether family service workers with more knowledge of family competence characteristics will make more family-oriented practice decisions than those family service workers with less knowledge of family competence characteristics. The findings suggest that those workers with the higher levels of knowledge made family-oriented practice decisions. However, a very large group had an adequate level of knowledge and made a mixed set of decisions, i.e. although working in a family service environment, many decisions focus on other issues than the family unit. The findings also support previous research indicating that most family service workers not only tend to make non-family-oriented case decision, but that the longer an individual is in the social welfare system and in their current position in that system, the more they tend to make non-family-oriented decisions. These findings suggest that in-service training be re-focused to promote issues and practices that are family-oriented and intended to keep families intact rather than focus on issues and case decision practices which seem to encourage the break-up of families.

Subject Area

Social work|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Zaharkiw-Riccio, Natalie, "Knowledge of family competence characteristics and practice decisions" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9529894.