Child Welfare and Information and Communication Technology: Today's Challenge
British Journal of Social Work
Information and communication technology (ICT) usage in contemporary child welfare practice reflects dominant managerial interests rather than those of the profession, and, importantly, of service users. Explicit use of ICT in the interests of service users remains embryonic, and professionals have been slow to capitalize on the communication potential of new technologies. This contrasts with technology uptake in other areas of human services. Unless this situation changes, client participation
... and power may decline further and managerial interests increasingly dominate. ICT has the potential to strengthen interaction between families and workers and change the conditions of initiation, distribution and use of spoken and written 'texts' in social work practice. This could significantly affect the ability of service users to be heard and to influence decision making. However, the opportunities and limitations of computer-mediated communication are a relatively new area of study-their application to child welfare requires considerable care. Social workers should explore the advantages that ICT offers service users and challenge the digital divide which still affects significant pockets of service users, and reflect on our own role in this. Here, we ask why social work has been has been slow to capitalize on new approaches to its core business: communication.