The child and family in context
Developing ecological practice in disadvantaged communities
By Owen Gill and Gordon Jack

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This book's evidence and case studies, drawn from lives in disadvantaged communities, illustrate ways of delivering innovative good practice that will be helpful to anyone concerned about the welfare of children, young people and families in those communities.

As valuable to readers who have some familiarity with the emerging concepts of 'ecological practice' as it will be to those who may be new to the term, it focuses on the whole child, recognising the links between different parts of their lives, and working creatively with these connections. Such practice developments are especially timely in the UK in the context of Every Child Matters, Integrated Children's Centres and Extended Schools. The authors explore this context to draw out lessons that can inform practice everywhere, and in evolving policy contexts.

They draw on many years experience of practice, research, evaluation, and project management in disadvantaged communities to show how all agencies can adequately address the connections: between the personal characteristics of children and young people, their families and carers, and the characteristics of the local communities of which they are a part.

The approach is underpinned by full reference to the work over many years of researchers who have focused on the 'ecology' of childhood, in fields such as child development and mistreatment, youth offending, and child poverty. In this the child is seen as part of a number of interconnected systems, including the family, social networks, schools, and the local community. Such thinking about children's lives has also underpinned recent frameworks for assessing the needs of children and young people, as well as major preventive and early intervention initiatives, such as Sure Start, the Children's Fund, and On Track.

The authors show how applying these research and practice developments in all relevant areas of practice can help: · hearing the voices of the children, young people and parents in their community context · working jointly with families and communities to safeguard children and young people and promote their well-being · working with communities to increase support for parents and produce better outcomes for all concerned · developing the approaches of all work done not only by children's trust agencies, but also by others that impact a child's ecology, including safety, housing, planning and regeneration · integrating the participation of children and young people into all such work.

Their book will appeal to busy practitioners, service managers, those involved in organisational and policy aspects, as well as to researchers, lecturers and students. It addresses · children of different ages and genders · children living within white, Black and minority ethnic, dual heritage and refugee families · disabled children and young people. It covers many of the community contexts within which they are living, including: · inner-city neighbourhoods · rural towns · peripheral housing estates · coastal towns.

Paperback. 176 pages. ISBN: 9781905541157. Published July 2007. £18.95


Anyone working with children and families in communities, plus lecturers, students and researchers in those areas of practice, which include: social work, school and community nursing, family support, education, youth work, child and adolescent psychiatry and psychology, community work, neighbourhood regeneration and planning, community safety, housing.


Preface. Research and policy background to ecological practice. Introduction: developing ecological practice with children and families in disadvantaged communities. The context for ecological practice: poverty and inequality in the UK. The impact on children and families of living in disadvantaged communities: the research basis for ecological practice. Ecological processes in disadvantaged communities. Practice implications. The development of practice approaches to the connections between child, family and community. Ecological practice in four community settings. Community approaches to safeguarding children. Community capacity building for ecological practice. Regenerating disadvantaged neighbourhoods and improving community safety. The challenges of ecological practice. Developing practitioner-participant evaluation of ecological practice. Conclusion: The challenges of ecological practice for organisations and practitioners. Index. References.


Owen Gill
has worked with families in a wide range of different settings, including rural and inner city communities. He is currently anti-poverty co-ordinator for Barnardo's South West.

Gordon Jack has been involved in social work practice and research with children and families and is currently Reader in Social Work at Durham University. Together, they are the authors of The Missing Side of the Triangle (Barnardo's 2003)


"The strength of the book is the clear 'researchmindedness' of the authors, and the detailed descriptions of the projects which use ecological approaches." BJSW.

"Reviews research on the impact of living in disadvantaged communities and develops the concept of 'ecological practice'. This links both the community and family elements of children's well-being, and attempts to work creatively with the connections between different parts of children's lives. Useful practice examples from different communities - including large peripheral estates, inner city refugee communities, and rural market towns - and are used throughout the book. The implications of linking community and family approaches are drawn out…The approach developed by the authors is useful for practitioners, service managers and those involved in organisational and policy aspects of delivering children's services, as well as researchers, lecturers and students." ChildRIGHT