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Professionalization by Interdisciplinary Cooperation? Strategies of Social Workers in the Context of the Child & Adult Protection Authorities

The revision of the Swiss civil code, in 2008, entailed the creation, by 2013, of interdisciplinary Child and Adult Protection Authorities (CAPA). Cantons met the (minimal) federal requirements with respect to these authorities with a great variety of organisational models, but nearly everywhere social workers can be found as board members. This project is interested in the role social workers play in different cantons and organisational models.

The newly created authorities can be conceived of as a field where social work has to renegotiate its position in collaboration with other professions. In this process, social work has to plausibly contend particular competences in diagnoses, indication, and intervention as a condition of a specific contribution of its own to the required interdisciplinarity. With respect to the CAPA, notably the following questions may be asked:

• What are the interpretations of interdisciplinarity on which the different organisational models rely? How and why a certain interpretation and the corresponding model were accepted in a given canton?

• How do social workers play their part in an authority’s decision making processes? What specific competences in the sense of knowledge and know-how do they claim? To what extent and under what conditions are these claims accepted by other board members?

• How do social workers in the CAPA understand themselves vis-à-vis their fellow social workers in the social services mandated by the authority?

• How does the organisation of the CAPA shape position and role of social workers within the authority as well as their relations to the authority’s environment?

Answers are sought through a mixed methods design: qualitative methods - observation, unstandardized interviewing, and analysis of documents – are complemented by a standardised survey of CAPA members in order to allow for quantitative inference about the distribution of the observed phenomena.

Expected results will be important for social work and social work education as they inform about the real knowledge base social workers use in every day decision making. In addition, they allow for evaluating how and how far interdisciplinarity, as required by federal law, has been realised.