Communicating the law in statutory youth protection settings

Helle B. Antczak, Thomas Mackrill, Maria Polo Lange, Frank Cloyd Ebsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


There is a lack of research concerning how statutory caseworkers communicate about the law with their clients. This is surprising given that the law frames the work they undertake. This study reports the findings of a small scale qualitative study of how Danish statutory caseworkers communicate about the law in meetings with young persons. The study aimed to generate knowledge that might enhance the quality of caseworkers’ meetings with young persons.
Eight statutory caseworkers from three municipalities were interviewed about their meetings with young clients. A grounded theory analysis was conducted and a construction of communicative practices was generated. The law played a key role in framing what the caseworkers and clients talked about and how they talked. The caseworkers strove to create a shared understanding of the legal space by talking about the law in non-legal terms. When caseworkers informed young people and their families about the law, timing was crucial. Transparency and trust played a central role, as did informing about the caseworkers’ official role and the young person’s rights and legal position. Dealing with the law in the meetings involved the caseworkers striking a balance with regard to: youth and parental concerns; legal requirements and appropriateness to a specific situation; maintaining authority and maintaining a relationship; maintaining authority and eliciting voluntary participation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNordic Social Work Research
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)262-272
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • social work and social conditions
  • communication
  • safeguarding
  • social legislation
  • youth
  • youth protection


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