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Not What I Expected: Training Social Work Students in Community-Based Child Prevention of Child Maltreatment

A Correction to this article was published on 10 September 2020

This article has been updated


Advances in our understanding of the influence of community factors on children’s safety support promoting community-focused public health approaches to child protection. Only limited attention, however, has been paid to what this means for social work in its mission to prevent child maltreatment. In particular, the literature lacks guidance on implementing opportunities for social work students to focus on primary prevention of child maltreatment. An exception is an effort in Tel Aviv, Israel, to implement Strong Communities for Children, a community-based child maltreatment prevention initiative first implemented in the USA. The local replication effort, led by Tel Aviv University faculty, differed from the initial trial in that social work students served as outreach workers instead of paid staff members. This article describes the local training model developed and presents a qualitative analysis of field journals maintained by three waves of students (n = 53). Three themes emerged from our analysis: reflections on the social work profession, experiences with partnership, and the impact of Strong Communities on the students’ lives outside the initiative. An overarching theme emerging from the qualitative analysis was the degree to which the experience was surprising for each student. The findings have important implications for social work education, among which are the value of reflexivity in praxis, the importance of modelling, and the significance of partnership.

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  • 10 September 2020

    The original article has been corrected. A typo in the title has been corrected, so that the title now is Not What I Expected: Training Social Work Students in Community-Based Prevention of Child Maltreatment.


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This study is dedicated to the students who participated in the Strong Communities for Children initiative in Tel Aviv, Israel. We would like to thank Efrat Levi, Bat El Sweck, and Oshri Barel for being exceptional partners in leading the initiative locally. We also express appreciation to Gary and Robin Melton, the developers of Strong Communities, for their support and inspiration. Finally, we thank Haruv Institute for its support of the initiative.

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Correspondence to Carmit Katz.

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The study received an approval from the university Ethics Board. As described above, students’ field journals were submitted without names or personal information and only after grades had been posted. All students were assured that their participation was voluntary, and that they were free to stop participating at any time without any adverse consequences, and all signed informed consent forms.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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The original version of this article was revised: a typo in title has been corrected.

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Katz, C., McLeigh, J.D. & Ben-Arieh, A. Not What I Expected: Training Social Work Students in Community-Based Child Prevention of Child Maltreatment. Int. Journal on Child Malt. 3, 327–342 (2020).

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  • Community organizing
  • Social work education
  • Prevention of child maltreatment
  • Strong communities
  • Fieldwork