Some know that while attaining my post-graduate qualifications in Psychology I worked for five years as a Research Officer in the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). During this period I worked closely with Psychiatry staff who were both expert practitioners and avid scientists. Looking back, I believe more and more in the importance of expert practitioner’s also conducting research in their areas of practice expertise. Who better to lead research into a field of endeavour than expert practitioners in that space?
I then look at where my own career has taken me, in the field of child welfare. My experience has been that there has not ever been time or allowance to conduct research into the field of endeavour in which I (and many others like me) have built significant expertise through practice. Rather, much of the research that we rely on comes from the academics with a special interest in our area of endeavour.
This is more and more concerning to me, especially in an era where evidence-based practice is the “gold standard”. Where does that leave expert practice built upon years of endeavour working directly with children, young people, and all who play a role in the domains of their lives? What status is accorded to practice expertise? Compared to that which comes out of a university study, I would say less status.
Ideally, expert practitioners in the field of child welfare would have time and allowance to be involved in research into best practice and practice knowledge. There is no substitute for conducting the assessment, making the recommendations, implementing the treatment plan, and reviewing the outcomes across one, or two, or more decades of practice, I believe.
Child welfare leaders and academics with a special interest in knowledge and practice in child welfare, it is time to engage practice leaders in research in child protection and child welfare.
(Please note that my reflection is largely based on my observations and experience in the jurisdictions in which I have worked. If the situation is different elsewhere, I would greatly appreciate hearing from you!)