Assessment of Children in Need in a Post-Soviet Context: Reflections of Child Protective Workers in Estonia

Karmen Toros, Michael C. LaSala, Marju Medar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Child protective worker perspectives and principles are known to affect practitioner–-client interaction. However, there is little research on the principles underpinning workers’ assessment activities in transitioning post-Soviet societies where child protection is a relatively new field. This article presents the findings of a small-scale, qualitative study that explored the perspectives and principles that Estonian child protective workers utilize to inform their assessments. The respondents (N = 20) provided examples of real-life cases that reflected their assessment perspectives. The results indicated that too often workers’ assessments demonstrate an over-reliance on an authoritarian, deficit-based approach that does not sufficiently include family or child perspectives. Such an approach may suggest the lingering influence of philosophies that informed family policy during the Soviet occupation. Workers with advanced training in social work and strength-based practices were more likely to focus on family strengths, build collaborative relationships with parents and children, and report successful outcomes in their cases. This study underscores the potential influence of previous Soviet occupation on child welfare practices in Estonia and also the need for further training of the nation’s child protective workers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-287
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Family Social Work
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 8 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Estonia
  • assessment principles
  • authoritarian perspective
  • child in need
  • child protective workers
  • child welfare


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