Compeleted practice research projects




Support family activities as experienced by children / Tukiperhetoiminta lapsen kokemana

The study examines the experiences of children who visit support families through child welfare services. Support family activities are a form of non-institutional care implemented at an interesting interface because of the voluntary nature of its implementers, that is, the support families. The starting point of the study is children’s experiential world in the context of support families offered as a support measure within non-institutional child welfare services. The study highlights the perspectives of children on what it is like to be in a support family and aims at increasing understanding of what special elements or changes support family activities can bring to children’s lived daily life. The study is implemented as research of experience, in which existentialist phenomenology serves as the theoretical and scientific-philosophical framework. The study is part of the dissertation of doctoral student Tiina Lehto-Lundén, who works as a social worker at Save the Children Finland. For further information, please contact

Child protection development and research LaskeTut project: The reasons and backgrounds for taking a child into care (HuosTa) /  Lastensuojelun kehittäminen ja tutkiminen LaskeTut-hanke: Huostaanoton syyt ja taustat (HuosTa)

This research project poses the following questions, among others: Why have children’s placements outside of their home become more common? When do social workers decide to take a child into care? The child protection development and research project LaskeTut (2013–2015) consists of three subprojects, of which this part follows the effects and effectiveness of child protection. The aim is to reinforce the knowledge base concerning follow-up, as well as research into child protection. Collaborative research between several partners is experimented with and developed in the project, based on both national statistics databases and child-specific qualitative data. The HuosTa project is planned and coordinated by the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL (further information: Collecting the research data requires competent professional evaluation, so the project also involves several experts on child welfare practices, with whom the ideas of practice research are applied in knowledge-generating workshops. In addition to social work researchers from the University of Helsinki and Socca / Heikki Waris Institute (further information:,, the project involves researchers from THL, child welfare researchers from the University of Tampere and Pikassos (Centre of Expertise on Social Welfare in Kanta-Häme, Pirkanmaa and Satakunta), the Sosiaalitaito centre of expertise, and experts on child protection from the ten municipalities in which research data is collected: Espoo, Tampere, Hämeenlinna, Karkkila, Kerava, Pori, Riihimäki, Seinäjoki, Valkeakoski and Vihti.

The potential of collaborative child welfare work / Yhteistoiminnallisen lastensuojelutyön mahdollisuudet

As the requirements set by society on individuals increase, the service system offers insufficient coping tools for young people who have experienced child protection measures. Collaborative child welfare work contributes to solving this problem. The approach refers to a new type of partnership between service users and professionals in developing high-quality, effective services. This study aims at increasing the understanding of how a collaborative approach can be applied in demanding child welfare client work. The main question to be answered is: under what conditions can collaboration be established as a permanent approach in child protection? What are the issues that prevent or advance the implementation of a collaborative approach? The research data include group and individual interviews conducted in 2012–2013 within the ’Yhteistutkiminen sosiaalityön menetelmänä’ project at the Heikki Waris Institute. The interviewees were adolescents involved in child welfare measures, their parents and professionals of child welfare, who implemented a collaborative approach. The practice research approach is visible in the fact that the data were collected as part of development work, and that the practice research has supported the development of a new method. The study is the professional licentiate thesis in community social work by Kati Palsanen, Development Manager at SOS Children’s Village. For further information, please contact

Reflective structures in social work: Case Kuvastin / Reflektiiviset rakenteet sosiaalityössä. Tapauksena Kuvastin.

In recent years, we have seen an increase in discussion, methodological development and even institutional solutions regarding knowledge construction, evaluation, and transformative and innovative practices in social work. However, only little research has been undertaken on practices of knowledge production and self- or peer assessment that would be an integral part of the practical social work process. This study focuses on structures that promote learning through knowledge construction as a tool for strengthening flexible, open and responsible expertise in social work. The topic is examined through the reflective self- and peer assessment method developed in the Kuvastin project. The method was developed in cooperation with social workers and social welfare supervisors between 2004 and 2008, using piloting, experiments and conceptualisation. The empirical data were collected as part of action research together with ten work communities in the Helsinki area from 2006 to 2008, and the follow-up data in 2014. The data analysis methods were thematic and typifying qualitative analysis and actor–network theory. The study is a part of the doctoral dissertation by Heikki Waris Institute’s Senior Researcher Social Worker Laura Yliruka. For further information, please contact

Family custody reports by social services staff in the determination of a child’s custody after divorce/ Sosiaalitoimen laatimat olosuhdeselvitykset lapsen huoltajuutta selvitettäessä vanhempien eron jälkeen

The main interest of the study is to find out how parenting is written about in the family custody reports created for courts by social services staff. These reports play an important role in deciding about custody, which is why the issue is also societal and concerns institutional practices: How do divorce practices affect the disintegration of parenthood, enable children’s contacts with their parents, and increase children’s emotional safety? The aim is to find answers to the following questions: What kinds of reports do social services staff create for district courts in the context of custody decisions? How is parenthood described in the reports from the perspective of motherhood and fatherhood? How is the child’s situation manifested in the reports? How do the reports take a stand on custody? The research data consist of 44 cases from different parts of Finland. In 2015, the study will progress to the reporting phase. The project received a research grant from the Alli Paasikivi Foundation in 2012 and 2014. Researcher: Aino Kääriäinen ( 

The latest trends in social work practice research / Sosiaalityön käytäntötutkimuksen viimeaikaiset kehityssuunnat

More than 30 development or research projects related to social welfare have been implemented at the Heikki Waris Institute. In addition, students of social work at the University of Helsinki yearly undertake approximately 60 practice research projects in social work. Methodological issues are central in the present development phase. In this study, we utilise a wide variety of data to analyse how the relationship between development and research was constructed in the processes of completed practice research and development projects, and what challenges it involves. The study is implemented by Mirja Satka, Aino Kääriäinen, Heidi Muurinen, Laura Yliruka and Kati Palsanen. For further information, please contact

A child’s cognitive agency in non-institutional child welfare social work / Lapsen tiedollinen toimijuus lastensuojelun avohuollon sosiaalityössä

The study examines the content and nature of children’s cognitive agency in non-institutional child welfare work. In child welfare social work, knowledge of a child’s everyday life and life situation is constructed together with the child, parents, social workers and other parties. The study is based on research on childhood in the social sciences and a child-centred approach, which emphasise children’s agency, the meaningfulness of their knowledge alongside adults’ knowledge, and the creation of a client relationship with children. The applied research method is a joint dialogical evaluation discussion, in which the client, social worker and researcher together examine the work performed from the perspective of the child’s knowledge. In the research discussions, children also produce data, and the method has been applied so that it is as child-friendly as possible. This is a case study based on data from joint dialogical discussions with three client families. The study is a professional licentiate thesis on child and youth social work by Developer Social Worker Hanna Tulensalo from the City of Vantaa. For further information, please contact

Multi-agency child protection as cooperation / Monitoimijainen lastensuojelu yhteistyönä

The study examines how multi-agency child protection is as cooperation, how it is implemented, and what is achieved with it. The theoretical basis relies on theoretical analyses of collaborative action. Collaborative action can be cooperation, networking, multiprofessional work, or joint work by several agents. The study involves pragmatic practice research that constructs the reality at the interface of practice through joint effort by families involved in child protection, child protection workers, day care, schools or substance abuse services. Multiple agency is the context, concept, subject and method of the study, which constructs a multivoiced description of the joint work. It is methodologically interesting to use joint evaluation simultaneously as a tool for research and for practical work. Fourteen families are involved in the study, as well as their child welfare workers, social welfare supervisors and a partner from their other services (kindergarten, school or substance abuse services). The data consist of 14 joint research discussions between the families, child welfare and other services (and the researcher), that is, of over 50 participants. The study clarifies the participants’ shared and separate views regarding the need for cooperation in non-institutional child welfare social work, the ways of implementing it, and the impact of the work. The various participants’ agency in the joint work is highlighted in the study, as well as the challenge of a child-centred approach in multi-agency. The study is the professional licentiate thesis in child and youth social work by Special Expert Tiina Muukkonen. For further information, please contact

Collaboration of social work clients and practitioners / Asiakkaiden ja ammattilaisten yhteinen työskentely sosiaalityössä

The participation and agency of clients in assistance work is a topic that has been actively discussed in social work research and practice in the recent years. The inclusion of clients in service development, as well as their active participation in their own service processes, also evokes contradictory thoughts among clients, practitioners and researchers. This study explores the collaboration between social service users and practitioners and, in particular, the way in which the participants analyse their work and its meanings afterwards. The data include interviews with young clients (under 25 years of age) in adult social services and with practitioners who have been applying an actively participatory group method in their work with young people. The focus of the study is on operation and interaction in group work. The theoretical framework of the study is linked to the renewing practices of assistance work and to human relationships in interaction. For further information, please contact Aino Kääriäinen ( and Kati Palsanen (



Over thirty projects have been implemented at the Heikki Waris Institute.

The Institute’s practice research projects and publications from 2001 to 2011 have been compiled into one publication, which is available here.

The Institute’s practice research projects from 2011 to 2013 are available on the Socca website.