Research

For me, research is about discovery. But in social work most of the things we "discover" are not entirely unknown; they are usually already quite well known by those on the receiving end of social work intervention. Similarly, the things we "discover" are not disconnected abstract concepts that only shape the ways we think, but are ideas that shape the ways we do things, and consequently have concrete implications for the lives and wellbeing of the people social work claims to serve. Keeping these ideas about discovery in mind, I undertake most of my research in partnership with social work service users, who help me learn what they already know, and who allow me work with them to refine and translate their wisdom into knowledge that can be used to improve social work practice and social policy. Within this overarching participatory approach to research, my primary interests are in anti-oppressive and anti-racist social work. The setting in which I focus most of my research attention is child welfare - a focus that emerges from the twelve years I spent undertaking child protection work in the UK and Canada. It is within child welfare settings, where I best combine my anti-racism and AOP interests with what I refer to as "service users theory," which gives voice to "subjugated knowledge." Some of my research projects include:

Positive Parenting Pilot Project
This study is funded by the Ontario HIV Treatment Network ($79,980.00). Dr. Saara Green and Doris O'Brien Teengs, who have considerable experience in the Community Based Research (CBR) methods employed by the study, asked me to be a project co-investigator . I was happy to be involved to learn more about CBR from Saara and because the study connects with my interests in child welfare, anti-oppression, service user perspectives as well as other areas of interest. The study asks, how child protection agencies, can best respond to HIV-positive mothers involved with their services. The focus is primarily on Aboriginal mothers who are HIV-positive, but addresses working with non-aboriginal HIV-positive parents too. The project also focuses on a broader range of issues than HIV, because most parents involved with CASs face troubles with wider social issues such as poverty, housing instability, domestic violence and so on. What I really like about the project is that parents, who are service users, take a key role in leading the research and will help train CAS workers in the knowledge that emerges from findings. For more information and a full list of the co-investigators and collaborators click here.

Understanding Students’ Experiences of Inclusion and Exclusion: Improving the Classroom Learning Environment
This project, initiated and led by Anju Joshi and comprised of several co-researchers, is funded by the McMaster Forward with Integrity initiative. The study will discover McMaster students’ experiences of inclusion and exclusion in the classroom, and make recommendations about existing and potential practices that include.

Helped by a Social Worker, Therapist or Counselor?
This is a long term (10-year) project examining effective intervention (from service users perspectives). The project is designed so that students and community members research members. More information here.

Deaths Too Soon: Learning from the Reflections of Parents and Workers in Cases of Child Abuse and Neglect Deaths
I want to help reduce the deaths of children as a result of child abuse and neglect. I believe that asking parents and workers involved in such cases about how things might have been different in their case might provide insight in how to stop these things happening in future cases. More information here.

Looking for anti-oppressive child welfare practice
I am looking for volunteers to take part in a study about how Children’s Aid workers and parents work successfully together in cases where parents face a barrier caused by things such as; poverty, disability, homelessness, racism, sexism and so on. More informationhere.

2012: Worker-Parent Engagement and the Impact on Child Safety, Permanency, Child Wellbeing, and Family and Community Support in Child Welfare Settings: A Demonstration Project
Funded by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services ($126,465.00). I am a co-researcher on this project led by Principle Investigator Dr. Jim Gladstone. This one-year demonstration project partnered with seven Ontario Children’s Aid Societies will develop, refine, and pilot test measures that will be used in a 3-year research study to examine “worker-parent engagement” and determine how child welfare workers in Ontario can affect the worker-parent relationship to produce the best outcomes for children and families.

2010: Your Policies our Children: Refugees Speak Through Photovoice about the Impact of Canadian Social Policy on their Children and Families
Funded by McMaster University Arts Research Board ($3,500.00) and a McMaster incentive grant ($5000). This pilot study uses Photovoice and Participatory Action Research to give parents who are refugees and refugee claimants a voice about the impact of current child and family social policy has on their children and families.

2009: Building Service Users' Knowledge: Understanding Child Protection Services from the Receiving End
Funded by SSHRC ($98,000.00). This research developed knowledge about how social workers and parents can work together in cases of child abuse and neglect. Rather than addressing this issue form a social work perspective and asking how workers can understand and work with parents, the research took a new and innovative research approach by asking how parents can understand and work with child protection workers.


2008: Developing a Pedagogy for Teaching Anti-Oppressive Social Work Practice
Supported by McMaster University teaching and learning award ($9,198.00). I am a co-researcher on this project with nine other faculty members and students. The research identifies the best teaching practice and content for educating social work students about anti-oppressive practice (AOP). Identification has taken place by gathering data from focus groups with students and interviews with faculty members involved in AOP education across Canada.

2004: Utilizing WebCT & "Learning Objects" in Social Work Education
Supported by a University of Victoria Dean of Faculty of Human and Social Development award for the development of computer mediated curriculum and a innovations in teaching award ($15,000.00). In this project Professor Rice-Green of the University of Victoria and I examined the outcomes of online and classroom child welfare undergraduate education that utilizes modified "learning objects."

2002: Parental experience of child protection intervention
My doctoral research, using a grounded theory, to develop understanding of how parents experience and make sense of child protection intervention. The primary finding was that parental experience of child protection intervention is shaped by the ways they perceive workers using power in the casework relationship (Funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada doctoral award).

1999: Developing cultural competence through web-based instruction
Undertaken with Dr. Rob MacFadden & Dr. Sarah Maiter, this research examined Web-based instruction. Important characteristics for Web-based social work education were identified (Funded by the University of Toronto and Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies).

1995: Client views of child welfare services
Undertaken with Sarah Maiter, this qualitative study examined parent's views of the effectiveness of child protection services and their recommendations for ways to improve service delivery. Parents made several recommendations about ways to improve services. As a result of this study a parent and former client was invited to sit on a Children's Aid Society Board of Directors committee responsible for the design and delivery of services.

1993: To what extent is the struggle between those supporting and opposing the Social Work Act in Ontario a struggle between world views?
Research undertaken at York University as a M.S.W. thesis. This study was quantitative requiring instrument design followed by several forms of validity and reliability testing before administering to a sample of two hundred social workers. No significant relationship was found between workers political "world-view" and their support of the Social Work Act.

1986: Ways of providing anti-racist training to social service staff
Research for Southwark Social Services, London, England, identifying staff training needs and recommending ways of meeting those needs.

1985: The needs of South Asian elders
Multi-methodological research conducted for Southwark social Services, London, England.

1982: Community work among South Asian groups in London (UK)
Undertaken at the University of The South Bank as part of a BSc. (Hons) degree in social science. Research was qualitative and focused on the predominantly Western/European conceptualizations of "community" utilized by government Community Development Workers and the impact of these frameworks had on service delivery to South Asian groups.