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Professional curiosity in child protection: Thinking the unthinkable in a Neo-Liberal World

Burton, Victoria; Revell, Lisa


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Miss Lisa Revell
Lecturer in Social Work / Director of Student Experience


This conceptual paper explores the notion of professional curiosity within child protection practice considering the barriers that can inhibit social workers invoking curiosity. The authors contend that definitions of professional curiosity are lacking in clarity and transparency, at the time of writing we are not aware of any other endeavours to create a definitional reference point or analysis of this concept. Furthermore, invoking professional curiosity is challenging when the social work task is pressurised, stressful and operates within a system that is stretched to breaking point. Drawing on messages from Serious Case Reviews in the UK which identify social work failings in context of a lack of professional curiosity, this paper initially focuses on constructing some definitional reference point, moving on to explore factors that may inhibit curiosity in practice. We cement connections between the emotional dimension of child protection practice, organisational context and the wider neoliberal political climate, constructing these as potential barriers to invoking curiosity. We contend the interplay of such complicated relational dynamics has the potential to distort professional judgement, including enacting curiosity. Finally, we consider realistic mechanisms by which social workers could be supported to generate creativity and curiosity in their practice.


Burton, V., & Revell, L. (2018). Professional curiosity in child protection: Thinking the unthinkable in a Neo-Liberal World. The British journal of social work, 48(6), 1508-1523.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 8, 2017
Online Publication Date Nov 8, 2017
Publication Date Sep 1, 2018
Deposit Date Oct 9, 2017
Publicly Available Date Nov 9, 2019
Journal British journal of social work
Print ISSN 0045-3102
Electronic ISSN 1468-263X
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 48
Issue 6
Pages 1508-1523
Keywords Child protection; Politics; Emotion; Professional curiosity
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the accepted manuscript of an article published in British journal of social work, 2018. The version of record is available at the DOI link in this record.


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