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Doctoral Dissertation: Constructing child and family social work’s discursive practices in Lithuania


MSW Roberta Motiečienė’s dissertation is based on the stories of child and family social workers in Lithuania. The country has been independent for only thirty years, which has significantly influenced the development of social work practices. Lithuanian society, following a neoliberal model and stressing individualism and efficiency, has high expectations of family social workers while advocating the rights of children and families. Family social workers are facing difficulties caused by structural problems in society and they are expected to abide by work ethics while lacking external resources.

Nowadays, Lithuanian family social work practices are undergoing a great deal of systemic changes, as family social work is increasingly constructed within the public domain. Family social work is constructed by increasing child protection services with casework practice, whereby the focus turns on risk measurement and management rather than the wellbeing of families. The current situation raises many questions concerning the social work as a profession.

Family social workers applying the psychological service discourse

High prices in the housing market, consumerism, inequalities in the labour market, poverty, and unemployment – they all affect families with fewer opportunities. These families have a lower income, they may lack stress coping strategies, and their strengths are recognised at a minimum level.

– Thus, family social workers (FSW) apply features of the psychological service discourse rather than alternative approaches, where child and family rights are the focus of social work practice, notes Motiečienė.

According to Motiečienė, this stresses the necessity to find new ways to approach social work practice. It is not enough to analyse practical cases in a traditional manner, because social work is changing in pace with the changing society. Also, the perspective of social investment should be included in study programs in order to broaden our understanding of structural problems rather than analysing the consequences of the client’s dysfunctional behaviour.

Towards professional ethics in family social work

The client profile descriptions of FSWs highlight parent clients’ weaknesses, such as lacking social or parenting skills, alcoholism, or criminal conduct. Stating that their interventions are child-focused is therefore misleading, because the real focus is on the parents’ behaviour. FSWs think that they actively interact with their clients and that their assistance raises the clients’ awareness and their ability to recognise themselves differently.

– Yet, FSWs do not realise that the problems they are facing are actually caused by the changing society – the inequalities within the neoliberal society, stresses Motiečienė.

Family social work as a discourse within a changing society is being individualised and social problems are not seen on a political or economic level. These individualized social work practices entailing broader societal implications and various structural problems have a direct influence on family social work practices.

The greatest professional challenges are related to ethical considerations in family social work encounters. While working with lacking professional and structural resources, family social workers try to address ethical questions when confronting evaluation and decision-making problems and contradictions in families, organisations, and society.

Information on the defence

With the permission of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Lapland, MSW Roberta Motiečienė will defend her dissertation "Constructing child and family social work’s discursive practices in the context of Lithuania" on 30 November 2020 at 16.30 p.m. The opponent is Professor Katherine Tyson McCrea (Loyola University Chicago, School of Social Work) and the custos is Professor Merja Laitinen (University of Lapland).

The public defence will take place online: https://connect.eoppimispalvelut.fi/vaitos

Information on the candidate

Roberta Motiečienė earned her Master’s degree in Social Work at the Vytautas Magnus University in Lithuania. She has published twenty scientific articles in national and international journals. Her research interests deal with social work practice in the areas of child and family social work, empowerment of clients, discourse analysis, and social work ethics. In her research, she addresses the voices of family social workers and their everyday discursive practices in Lithuania.

Additional information

Roberta Motiečienė

Information on the publication

Roberta Motiečienė: “Constructing child and family social work discursive practices in the context of Lithuania”. Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 293, ISSN 1796-6310, ISBN 978-952-337-232-0. University of Lapland, Rovaniemi 2020.

Permanent link to the electronic publication: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-337-232-0