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The Relational Gaze on a Changing Society

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Edited By Paolo Terenzi and Elisabetta Carrà

Relational sociology is coming increasingly to the fore on the international academic stage. As it invariably happens in such circumstances, when a new paradigm attracts a growing number of scholars, researchers and practitioners, it is almost inevitably interpreted and identified in many different ways. This book aims to highlight the specific nature of relational sociology, disseminates knowledge about the relational approach which has been developed in Italy and in Europe starting from the work of Pierpaolo Donati, and confronts this approach with issues which are currently much debated in social theory, social research and social work. The authors try to consolidate the directions taken in the research field in order to distinguish relational sociology from other approaches which are not relational, or are only so to a certain degree.

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Decision-Making in Child Protection. The Family Group Conferences Model

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Introduction

Family participation in decision-making processes, particularly in the context of child protection, has long been the focus of several studies (Damman 2014; Gladstone et al. 2012; Van Bijleveld et al. 2015). The issue can be considered at different levels, starting from a macro level, which includes the general guidelines of the various institutional systems, to arrive at the reference theories of each individual social worker who is called to intervene in a specific situation.

To offer insight into such processes, it is useful to recall the main orientations, which include the services and interventions of child protection, referring to the classic definition of Gilbert (2012). According to the main studies (Gilbert 2012; Cameron 2014), the first model refers mainly to the Anglo-Saxon countries (USA, Canada, UK) and is called the child protection–oriented model, and the second refers to the countries of Northern and continental Europe and is called the family support–oriented model (or Family-service oriented).

In the child protection–oriented model (Fig. 1), the goal of services is mainly to protect children from any prejudicial behaviour against them. The relationship between professionals and families is distant and often adversarial, a legalistic approach tends to prevail, and the assessment of situations is carried out mainly through grids and scales with scores (Featherstone et al. 2014). The paths are rigidly organized (Samsonsen and Turney 2017), so the intervention plan is set by the professionals and proposed later to the families, and...

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