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When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
In the early seventies clinical evidence emerged documenting the first direct causal links between prenatal alcohol exposure and children’s behaviours observed in child welfare services. Subsequently, the term Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (s) (FASDs) was introduced to encompass the range of possible diagnoses associated with prenatal alcohol exposure. Although 40 years have passed, FASDs remains in the margins of public health priorities. It is considered a widespread problem and is increasingly recognized across countries as a fiscal and social burden on society. A plethora of research exists documenting the direct effect of prenatal alcohol exposure on physical, cognitive and behavioral outcomes. However, few studies focus on the critical interface of children entering public care with an FASD, and the statutory requirement of the CWSW to plan safe care. Applying a Constructivist Grounded Theory methodology, this doctoral research sought to document the voices of Child Welfare Social Workers (CWSWs) about the manner in which they respond with this vulnerable cohort of children using methodology based on constructivist grounded theory. Eleven CWSWs, five allied health professionals and three foster parents comprised the study sample (n=18) and participated in in-depth interviews. Findings indicate that social workers are struggling in their mandated statuatory duty to offer plans of safe care for children with an FASD. Specific concepts in the data included struggling advocacy, professional positioning and lack of procedural guidance. CWSWs are in urgent need of a clear pathway and FASD informed knowledge to help guide their interventions and their capacity to advocate for this vulnerable population of children.