Last updated November 12, 2015
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Social Work Practice in Child Welfare

The Interactional Model

Social Work in Child Welfare is likely to change the way that both novice and seasoned professionals view their challenging work in protective and family support services, foster care, adoption, and residential care.  Shulman’s fresh, novel, and practice-based perspective encourages child welfare professionals to step back from a traditional linear approach and view their work through the more complex lens provided by his interactional model.  He argues persuasively that child welfare professionals should be sensitive to the intricate intersection among the time and phases of the practitioner–client relationship; personal and professional selves of the worker; complicated relationship between empathy and confrontation; potentially competing interests of children, families, and social services agencies; evidence-based practices; and professional artistry. Shulman’s keen insights reflect his vast experience in the profession and are likely to serve as a critically important guide for child welfare professionals for years to come.

—Frederic G. Reamer, PhD


School of Social Work

Rhode Island College


Social Work Practice in Child Welfare is meat and potatoes for social workers, and an antidote to the evidence-based practice (EBP) orthodoxy of the day. Lawrence Shulman takes readers on a much-needed ride back to basics with real-world practice, fortified by William Schwartz’s classic interactional model (IM). Schwartz demanded “real work” in contrast to an “illusion of work.” Shulman drills down to IM’s essential features with individuals, families, and groups and shows how to address underlying assumptions, specific goals, and interventions to achieve outcomes. The book is extremely well-structured. Shulman dives deeply into family support, child protection, foster and residential care, and adoption processes, all underpinned by IM and enhanced by important chapters on research and EBP and supervision. This book is required reading for social workers practicing in any sphere of the field. In response to the age-old question to social workers, “What do you do?” Shulman delivers the goods!

–Andrew Malekoff, MSW

Executive Director and CEO

North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center

Roslyn Heights, NY

and Editor-in-Chief

Social Work with Groups