Summary: Consumer participation in decision making and evaluation of services has been a significant theme in social work and other caring professions for over 20 years. This article reflects on a qualitative research study that was conceptualised within participatory principles. It critically examines key features that emerged as challenges to the ideals of participatory research with parents and grandparents about their experiences with child protection services in Victoria, Australia. Findings: The features examined are differentiated between the visible and familiar and the invisible, often emergent, aspects of social work research. We critically examine the ways in which the visible and invisible features as situated dimensions of social work research may shape how and whether the ideals of participatory research can be achieved. We discuss tensions in the process that have no clear ‘solutions’. Instead, we identify the importance of mindfulness and reflexive practice by researchers to find their way through these potential ethical and legal minefields.Applications: We conclude that while social workers must continue to strive for participation by a range of service users in knowledge generation, we must also critically examine and theorise the meaning of participatory research and the idealised images of consumers and service users to improve such practice. An awareness of situated ethics as a location of the self in interaction with others is essential to promote ongoing reflexive practice throughout all stages of research.
Field of Research
119999 Medical and Health Sciences not elsewhere classified 1607 Social Work
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