Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Services, Birth, Adoption, Literature, Sociology, Activism, Involvement, Human Services

Pages: 8

Words: 2200

Published: 2023/04/10


The research article “Service User Involvement in Social Work Research: Learning from an Adoption Research Project”, created by Jeanette Cossar and Elsbeth Neil in 2013 starts unwieldy employing abundant jargon language, but it rapidly reshapes in a comprehensive and informative text. The article consists of six sections, across which the authors elaborate on the matter of using service users, namely birth relative consultants, in the adoption process, investigating both the process and the impact of their involvement in this process. Cossar and Neil place their article in the context of a governmental project meant to assess the cost, challenges and benefits of using service user consultants. The article includes theoretical perspectives that present the existing practices in service user in research, with a focus on social work research, but the greatest part of the writing’s body is dedicated to exhibiting the involvement of birth relative consultants in the adoption research. This paper focuses on analysing and evaluating Cossar and Neil’s research methodology, ethical stance, the strength of the argument, but also on considering the contribution of the this article’s findings on better understanding the issue in practice.

The first learning outcome is to apply the scientific method to a social problem. This invloeves hypotheseizing and methodology applications to social sujects. The second is that the research needs to relatable to the real world and useful. And third the research needs to help social workers evaluate their own roles in society. In this study, the introduction provides the rationale for the need to study this subject, which is to understand the costs and “evaluate the services to support the birth relatives of children adopted from care, and services to support post – adoption contact in complex cases” (Cossar & Neil 226).
In order to identify and evaluate a range of methodologies used in this study, the literature review sections presents existing theories and models on service user involvement, indicating that this approach is part of public policy in United Kingdom, and an important aspect in social work research (Cossar & Neil 226 - 227). The article goes on to frame the discussion into an emancipatory or a feminist perspective to explain the difference between the democratic versus the participatory research. Democratic research is a qualitative approach in which statistics are gathered through various means such as surveys, questionnaires, etc. Participatory research involved whole communities emphasize participation by all and then action by all of those involved and is quantitative in nature as the participant involvement is many times not empirical in nature. Nevertheless, despite the jargon used to compare these types of research, it is comprehensible for the social work experienced readers that the participatory (quantitative) research is more effective and relevant for the given discussion than the democratic (qualitative) one, which often has political accents (Cossar & Neil 227). This section also describes the challenges of service user involvement, as they aroused from previous research. As the most important challenges, the authors refer to the aims, method and roles that can create tensions between academic and service user consultants, communication barriers or lack of evaluation of service users (Cossar & Neil 228 - 229).
The next section is dedicated to describing the actual methodology used in the government – funded project, meant to assess the significance, relevance, and effectiveness of birth relatives’ consultants as service users. The described process challenges the previous research and existing theories and models on the service users’ involvement in social work research, as the authors find that the birth relatives’ involvement in the research process is more critical for the success of the research than previously indicated. Therefore, as part of the research project, focused with evaluating the birth relatives’ involvement in the adoption cases, this part focuses on their participation in the process.
Clear information is provided about the qualitative research methodology, indicating that 24 service user consultants were involved in the research project together with the practitioner researchers, out of which 14 were birth relatives (Cossar & Neil 229). As the authors further describe the methodology, the readers find that the service user consultant group formed of birth relatives was diverse, including couples, single parents who placed their children for adoption and a grandmother. This indication is relevant, as it indicates the approach to diversity, which means different responses and views on how the research is handled.
The qualitative methodology was carried on, stating that the service user consultants were provided with relocation and virtual communication support for participating in the research. In addition, the text indicates that the researchers treated the service user consultants with respect and dignity, respecting their opinions and considering their involvement as a contribution to the research methodology, data analysis and findings (Cossar & Neil 229 - 230). The equal treatment, the thoughtful consideration for the birth relatives’ opinions and the resource allocation for allowing the participation of the service user consultants in the research process are significant methodological aspects that indicate the ethical approach of the research.
As stated, the authors indicate that the birth relatives advised researchers on how to construct the research methodology for the post – adoption complex research cases. It is relevant that Cossar and Neil referred to the service users’ contribution to the text, suggesting that too much writing on the leaflet would confuse the research participants.
Similarly, it is relevant for the methodological description that the authors mentioned the service user consultants’ contribution to interview questions, recommending more informal questions that appealed to the participants’ emotions, thoughts and feelings to giving away their babies. It is also relevant for the methodology description the fact that the birth relatives contributed to the interview schedules, although more information at this point would have been required. How exactly did the service users contribute in interview scheduling and how did their involvement in this part of the research affected the research? Therefore, more information regarding service user consultants’ involvement in the scheduling would have critically enhanced the methodological description.
In the section “The impact of birth relative consultants on research”, Cossar and Neil also indicate that the service user consultants contributed to the measurement and data analysis of the research. They suggested that using the Likert scale for measuring the responses was insensitive and ineffective for the given situation, as this standardised measurement design did not take into account the personal accounts of the respondents (Cossar & Neil 233). By respecting this critical judgement spurred by the service user consultants, the research significantly improved in terms of ethical considerations, further infusing more ethical considerations into the following research on post – adoption cases.
The ethics of both the researchers and participants is in question as the information is confidential/ , the contribution of birth relative consultants in the research project also meant identifying important findings related to the adoption process, such as stigma and rejection, which would not have been found without their involvement (Cossar & Neil 233). Again, this is an important aspect for the methodology of the analysed article, because it emphasizes the fact that the research that the authors conducted was flexible and inclusive. Moreover, this aspect is also significant for the argument of the discussed topic, as it indicates that the birth relatives are significant factors in the research projects focused on adoption.
The fact that the research article is sprinkled with personal reviews of the service user consultants gives more strength to the argument, in addition to increased accuracy and authenticity. However, their direct comments are mostly linked with their feedbacks regarding their participation in the research. If the authors would have used more direct quotes of the birth relative consultants throughout the article, to support their involvement in the research, they could have better optimized the authenticity of the research.
Moreover, the readers could have shaped a more comprehensive idea about the challenges and difficulties or the tensions between the practitioner researchers and the service user consultants, if their direct opinions would have been quoted along the research and not solely in the feedback section. Even the authors indicate that the feedback of the service users could have been influenced by the fact that they knew the interviewer, hence, their answers could have been biased, or less critic due to the familiarity with the research practitioner (Cossar & Neil 235).
What could have contributed to the concentration of the direct quotes solely in the feedback section is the fact that the authors used an equidistant writing and sprinkling more direct quotes would have required personal interpretation, instead of empirical demonstration. The overall tone of the article is an objective one, as the authors only use personal thought and reasoning in the feedback section. The majority of the text is based on empirical findings and arguments supported with evidences from other readings or from the research conducted.
Even so, the article implies that there were no tensions between researchers and service user consultants, other than the reluctance of the birth relatives to contribute to a research project focused on adoption, which was, nevertheless, handled. Moreover, the authors of the examined article indicate that the service user consultants were actively involved in shaping the interview questions, making them more open, more focused on the interviewees’ feelings and emotions, rejecting the standardized Likert scale method for measuring the result. The fact that the practitioner researchers agreed with these aspects and implemented them indicates the lack of tensions between researchers and consultants.
There is no indication of communication barriers, only a mentioning of too much text in the leaflet, which was corrected at the recommendation of the service user consultants. This shows the openness of the researchers to learning from their interaction with representatives of the researched group. This aspect contributes to better understanding the issue of involving service user in a social research project, which will be treated in more details later on.
The relevance of the research to the authors is, especially, significant challenge that was addressed in the literature review section, which is the lack of evaluation of the service user consultants. Cossar and Neil indicate that the consultants were chosen from a wide range of environments, including people that faced alcohol or substance abuse issues or mental problems, resulted, but not necessarily spurred by the adoption process. The criteria that the authors indicate in selecting the diverse consultants were “motivation and interest” (Cossar & Neil 230). Therefore, the service user consultants were evaluated for recruitment based on these two criteria.
The ethics of this study is again presented in a balanced evaluation of the challenges and benefits of using birth relative consultants in adoption related research. Time – consuming, high resource concentration and emotion draining were the main challenges, but compared with the benefits (increased clarity of the process, enhanced responsiveness from the interviewees and finding unexpected results), they seem less important.
The research presented by Cossar and Neil indicate significant information helpful for the understanding of the post – adoption issue. Primarily, as the service user consultants identified, the reluctance of the birth relatives, as respondents, in collaborating with the social worker researchers is caused by the lack of sensitivity to their pain and feelings. However, although this insensitivity might seem an accusatory attitude for the ones who placed their children for adoption, it solely reflected the researchers’ objective nature, a deficiency that was confused with a negative attitude.
Therefore, the presence of the birth relative consultants in social work research focused on post – adoption processes is significant for creating a liaison between the researchers and the respondents. The authors indicated that the respondents were more open to answering the research questions knowing that people just as themselves were part of the research coordination (Cossar & Neil 229). This aspect contributes to understanding that the post – adoption research is a complex process that needs to be treated with care and sensitivity.
In addition, for the same purpose of better understanding the involvement of birth relatives in the social work research related with the adoption process, the lack of communication barriers and the openness of research practitioners to learning from the birth relatives is a considerable finding. It is relevant for the social worker researchers to understand that effective results can be obtained from openness to birth relative consultants’ opinions and experiences. This aspect is relevant also for the ethical considerations of the research, because as research practitioners, the birth relatives should be actively involved in the research process.
The combination between the formal and informal questions is significant for understanding the issue in practice. As seen in the analysed case, the birth relative consultants provided salient recommendations on how to organize the interview questions and on the inappropriateness of using too much and too complicated text in the research sheets. These recommendations have proved crucial for identifying knowledge on the post – adoption traumas that otherwise would not have been identified. For practice, this aspect is essential, because it indicates that through their experiences, service users can have a tremendous contribution on social work research.
The analysed research is based on a solid methodology, well – described and in compliance with the ethical considerations of social work research. The article could have benefited from a better built connection between the existent theoretical perspectives, policies and frameworks regarding service users’ involvement in social work research and the process and findings of the conducted research. Despite this aspect, the authors have built a strong argument for integrating birth relatives in the adoption related research, demonstrating this through the sensitivity, less formality and unexpected results that their recommendations brought to the overall research. For the understanding of the issue in practice, the article is relevant, as it indicates that through understanding and openness to learning, both sides (researchers and service users) can contribute to the effectiveness of the research, in addition to enjoying specific benefits.

Works Cited

Cossar, Jeanette & Neil, Elsbeth. Service user Involvement in Social Work Research: Learning from Adoption Research Project. British Journal of Social Work. Vol., pp. 225 – 240. 2015. Print.

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