Here You can find introductions to ongoing research projects in Helsinki Practice Research Centre.

Enhancing effectiveness in child protection by strengthening social workers' interaction skills (TAITAVA)

The research project focuses on mapping interaction skills of child and family social workers and improving them. The multidisciplinary project team develops a feasible and effective interaction training grounded in Motivational Interviewing (MI) and complemented with other relevant interaction skills.

Social worker's interaction skills are a prerequisite for high-quality and effective child protection practice: building trust and encouraging the experience of being heard, commitment to agreed goals and proper participation. In Finland, however, little attention has been paid to strengthening and evaluating these skills. Previous research in the UK (Forrester et al., 2019) has showed that social workers' interactional skills were associated with better service user outcomes such as parent-reported engagement and perceived well-being.

This research project aims to develop a feasible and effective training for child protection social workers. The training is grounded in Motivational Interviewing (MI) and complemented with other relevant interaction skills such as child-centered approach. Ultimately, the goal is to improve practitioner’s key interaction skills, and hence the effectiveness of direct practice with children and families.

The main research questions of the project are:

Step 1: What social worker's interaction skills are essential for effective social work with children and families? What are service users' and workers' perceptions of the needs to develop these skills?

Step 2: What core elements should be included in training based on Motivational Interviewing to strengthen these interaction skills? How should the training be optimised on the basis of the findings of the pre-testing?

Step 3: How acceptable and feasible is the training and to what extent does it achieve sustainable positive change in interaction skills? What are the processes through which successful change in interaction skills occurs? What research methods can be used to evaluate the interaction skills of social workers in a comparable and reliable way?

The research project will first map interaction skills needed in children’s and families social work with the help of a literature review and expert panel, and then develop and pilot a training for child protection social workers. The feasibility and outcomes of the training will be evaluated using different types of qualitative and quantitative data.

The research project is based in Helsinki Practice Research Centre and realized in collaboration between researchers from four universities (University of Helsinki, University of Tampere, University of Jyväskylä, Cardiff University). The research team involves researchers from social work and social psychology. In addition, social workers and experts-by-experience will participate in designing the training and its evaluation. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health funds the project.

Further information:

Maija Jäppinen, Assistant Professor, Project leader, University of Helsinki,


Documentation as part of participation and client safety in the services for children (ASTULA)

The purpose of the research project is to produce information about documentation in children's services. The research project focuses especially on the participation of customers in documentation, the realization of customers' legal rights and the consequences of documentation. The goal is to create evidence-based documentation models that take into account customer participation and customer safety, as well as the legal protection of professionals.

Further information:

Aino Kääriäinen, Senior university lecturer, Docent, University of Helsinki,


Real effectiveness in systemic practic  – a multiple case research promoting the development of sustainable and knowledge-based welfare services (MultiPrax)

The research project MultiPrax focuses on creating knowledge on real effects in a systemic context of social work in bilingual wellbeing services counties.  

The research focuses on how professionals create knowledge about and with families and the importance of multilingualism. Client participation is also in focus as well as how the child perspective is documented among professionals. In addition, the research examines how different governing documents influence the management of sustainable welfare services. The research includes, for example, review and follow-up of evaluation tools such as FIT meters, analysis of client documentation, and interviews and surveys with professionals and managers in wellbeing services counties. Aftercare is also a focus of our study, where we collaborate with user organisations. This study is based on comparative studies in three areas. It is rare for social work research to be based on comparative case studies. The project is expected to result in new knowledge about systemic practice and its real effects and about the conditions for creating knowledge-based structures in social work. The study also provides knowledge about multilingualism in social work in three different wellbeing services counties.  

The research project will be carried out in three bilingual wellbeing services counties in 2022- 2024:Wellbeing services county of West Uusimaa, Wellbeing services county of Southwest Finland, Wellbeing services county of Ostrobothnia

The research project is based within the Helsinki Practice Research Centre and realized in collaboration with: University of Helsinki, Swedish School of Social Science at Helsinki University, Novia University of Applied Science,The Finnish-Swedish Centre of Expertise in the social welfare area (FSKC)

The research project has received governmental research funding for social work (VTR) from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

Futher information:

Ilse Julkunen, Professor, Project leader, University of Helsinki,


Building trust in child protection (the LURA project)


The LURA research project examines the construction of trust in child protection. This project aims to: examine the building of trust theoretically and practically; produce research-based knowledge on the process of trust-building and those factors influencing it; and develop trust-supporting practices and methods in the context of child protection.

Trust-building is approached from the perspectives social workers employed within child protection, social and healthcare professionals, and experts-by-experience—that is, young people and parents who have been clients of child protective services. Thus, trust in child protection is examined from two positions: in the context of multidisciplinary cooperation and in the context of client relationships.

The LURA project answers the following research questions:

1. What factors foster building trust in child protection and what are the results of establishing trust from the perspectives of social and healthcare professionals, social workers working in child protection, and experts-by-experience?

2. What concrete ways can be used for the building of trust in child protection among clients and in multi-professional settings?

Data from this research project consist of questionnaires and interviews.

The project researchers will cooperate with the wellbeing services counties of Southwest Finland, Southern Finland, Pirkanmaa, and with City of Helsinki and other organizations involved in child protection services.


For more information:

Eveliina Heino, PhD, Project Director, University Lecturer, Docent, University of Helsinki,

Anne-Mari Jaakola, PhD, Senior Researcher in Social Work, Co-Project Leader, University of Turku,