Children and the Child Welfare System in Malawi

The article’s authors, Jane Tembo and Professor Siv Oltedal are from Stavanger University, Norway. The article covers various aspects of social work practices with children and families in Malawi culture. Unlike western culture, where the social worker can have supreme power depending on the welfare of the children, the Malawi social worker’s condition is different. Here, parents’ decision-making is critical and challenging if the social worker decides to act against the parents’ wishes. While the family, community, and the church are essential actors in providing child welfare, the authors note they are inadequate to deal with social challenges that arise because of social and technological change. The article asserts that there is a need for state intervention through social welfare, and in some cases, the best option for child development and well-being is outside the home. The authors highlight various rationale and solutions for placing the children outside the home, emphasizing helping children financially as an alternative solution.

The article used sub-questions to explore the study further. These questions include “how do social workers comprehend the term family?” what are the intervention method employed by the social worker when helping children, and how does patriarchy affects social workers’ interventions into families ?” and “how do social workers coordinate with other professionals and the community when working with the family ?”

The main hypothesis was that social workers play the most significant function in providing children the best option for development and well-being outside the home by working together with the family and offering help to support the child. Data is collected through group discussions in child protection. Additionally, the researchers use purposive sampling to identify social workers working as child protection workers. The data collection is based on vignettes to maximize interaction between the facilitators and the group participants. Data analysis was done using qualitative content analysis.

The study findings identified the family as a union between a man, woman, and their children together with their relatives. The social workers need to depend on families to help the children by helping the parent help the children. Second, in analyzing social workers’ interventions methods with families in Malawi, the study found counseling as the most used technique. Third, the authors found that gender significantly influences the social practice in families, where men are the head, with their decision paramount. Nonetheless, the patriarchy’s usefulness for the children is more symbolic concerning culture and social norms than functional support for the children. Finally, the authors found collaboration between social workers and other stakeholders beneficial. The study found that social workers were more accepted in urban areas. Religious leaders can provide counseling as an adaptive strategy but fail to cater to children that do not subscribe to their religion.

As experienced researchers, the authors are forthcoming about their method and supplement most of the work with scholarly research. The article is timely, descriptive, and well researched. The utility of the research lies in the discussion in an attempt to balance state intervention of protecting children and creating cohesive families. However, the study is limited. The sample size is not highlighted, which may limit the generalization of the study to a broader population. Besides, the authors fail to provide limitations and suggestions for further research. Valid and reliable studies have limitations and acknowledging them minimizes the range of scope. Qualitative social research needs to be more transparent about evaluating its sample size to expand the data adequacy.



Tembo, M. J., & Oltedal, S. (2015). Social work and families in child welfare in Malawi: Social worker’s considerations when placing a child outside the home.