Not What I Expected: Training Social Worker Students in Community-Based Child Prevention of Child Maltreatment

Carmit Katz, Jill D. McLeigh & Asher Ben-Arieh - International Journal on Child Maltreatment: Research, Policy and Practice


Advances in our understanding of the influence of community factors on children’s safety support promoting community-focused public health approaches to child protection. Only limited attention, however, has been paid to what this means for social work in its mission to prevent child maltreatment. In particular, the literature lacks guidance on implementing opportunities for social work students to focus on primary prevention of child maltreatment. An exception is an effort in Tel Aviv, Israel, to implement Strong Communities for Children, a community-based child maltreatment prevention initiative first implemented in the USA. The local replication effort, led by Tel Aviv University faculty, differed from the initial trial in that social work students served as outreach workers instead of paid staff members. This article describes the local training model developed and presents a qualitative analysis of field journals maintained by three waves of students (n = 53). Three themes emerged from our analysis: reflections on the social work profession, experiences with partnership, and the impact of Strong Communities on the students’ lives outside the initiative. An overarching theme emerging from the qualitative analysis was the degree to which the experience was surprising for each student. The findings have important implications for social work education, among which are the value of reflexivity in praxis, the importance of modelling, and the significance of partnership.