Social Work Research: Qualitative Groups
A focus group was conducted to explore the application of a cross-system collaboration and its effect on service delivery outcomes among social service agencies in a large urban county on the West Coast. The focus group consisted of 10 social workers and was led by a facilitator from the local office of a major community support organization (the organization). Participants in the focus group had diverse experiences working with children, youth, adults, older adults, and families. They represented agencies that addressed child welfare, family services, and community mental health issues. The group included five males and five females from diverse ethnicities.
The focus group was conducted in a conference room at the organization’s headquarters. The organization was interested in exploring options for greater collaboration and less fragmentation of social services in the local area. Participants in the group were recruited from local agencies that were either already receiving or were applying for funding from the organization. The 2-hour focus group was recorded.
The facilitator explained the objective of the focus group and encouraged each participant to share personal experiences and perspectives regarding cross-system collaboration. Eight questions were asked that explored local examples of cross-system collaboration and the strengths and barriers found in using the model. The facilitator tried to achieve maximum participation by reflecting the answers back to the participants and maintaining eye contact.
To analyze the data, the researchers carefully transcribed the entire recorded discussion and utilized a qualitative data analysis software package issued by StatPac, which offers a product called Verbatim Blaster. This software focuses on content coding and word counting to identify the most salient themes and patterns.
The focus group was seen by the sponsoring entity as successful because every participant eventually provided feedback to the facilitator about cross-system collaboration. It was also seen as a success because the facilitator remained engaged and nonjudgmental and strived to have each participant share their experiences.
In terms of outcomes, the facilitator said that the feedback obtained was useful in exploring new ways of delivering services and encouraging greater cooperation. As a result of this process, the organization decided to add a component to all agency annual plans and reports that asked them to describe what types of cross-agency collaboration were occurring and what additional efforts were planned.
Social Work Research: Single Subject
1.What specific intervention strategies (skills, knowledge, etc.) did you use to address this client situation?
I utilized basic research knowledge and skills, such as study design, sampling, data collection, data analysis, writing up findings, and dissemination.
2.Which theory or theories did you use to guide your practice?
I used basic research knowledge to guide my practice.
3.What local, state, or federal policies could (or did) affect this situation?
As in any research, federal and other regulations exist regarding the ethics of the study and how research can and/or should be conducted. Laws, declarations, and code that may apply include the U.S. Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects (also known as the Common Rule), the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Helsinki, a statement of ethical principles like the Belmont Report: Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research of the U.S. National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, and Institutional Review Board guidelines of the institution with which the research is affiliated.
4.Were there any legal or ethical issues present in the case? If so, what were they and how were they addressed?
Legal and ethical issues in this case centered on informed consent and the protection of human subjects. When doing research, all study participants must be fully informed about the study and the implications for them as participants. All risks must be identified and minimized. In order to implement the study, an Institutional Review Board (IRB) was asked to evaluate the ethical correctness of the study. Only after IRB approval was obtained could the study be conducted. After completion of the study, a report was submitted for IRB review and the study was closed.
5.How can evidence-based practice be integrated into this situation?
As in any empirical research, the findings from this study can contribute to evidence-based practice. However, single-subject designs are not considered very strong when it comes to generalizability.
6.Describe any additional personal reflections about this case.
Single-subject designs are fairly easy to implement and can provide very useful information on the case level. While their empirical strength is often considered weak, their applicability and usefulness make them a good method for clinical practice and, if following a multiple baseline design, they can provide good research data as well.