Offering help at the intersection between the family/community and the state

Research output: Contribution to conference without a publisher/journalPaperResearchpeer-review


Social work is usually characterised as a helping profession. Consequently, concepts of help and helping are at the core of the nature and purposes of social work. What it means to help, what helping looks like in practice and how help is organised at an interactional level between the people in the position of receiving help and participants providing help varies across the many contexts where social work is practiced. Social work is often practised at the intersection between everyday social life where people manage life challenges on their own or with help from friends and family and state where help is organised through a welfare system with various institutional tasks and goals. One example is when the response from child welfare services to a concern about a child is to involve the family in the decision-making process through a Family Group Conference.
A Family Group Conference is a structured decision-making meeting where a child’s family and extended family network are given a central and independent role in making decisions about how to best support the child. The principles and procedure employed by Danish child welfare services are inspired by the model originally developed in New Zealand in the 1980s but is offered to children and families where there are minor to major concerns for the child’s safety and welfare. The process has four main stages which is coordinated by a trained facilitator not affiliated with social services. During the first stage professionals inform the family of the concerns they have regarding the child’s welfare and safety. The family are then given time alone to develop a plan that addresses the concerns raised by the professionals. During this stage the professionals are placed in another room and can be invited in or consulted by family members if needed. If and when the family reaches a plan it is then presented to the professionals who are obligated to support the plan if it addresses the child’s needs.
In this paper I explore what happens during the family’s private sessions, when the professionals are excluded from the decision-making process. The paper focuses specifically on how offers to help are presented and treated in the interaction among the participants. By exploring help as a social action that is offered, accepted, or rejected on an interactional level at the intersection between institutional goals and offers of assistance by family members and network I hope to provide a deeper understanding of the complexities involved in offering and accepting help in a child welfare context.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date25 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2021
EventThe seventeenth DANASWAC meeting - Online
Duration: 25 Aug 202126 Aug 2021


ConferenceThe seventeenth DANASWAC meeting
Internet address


  • social work and social conditions
  • qualitative method

Cite this