Focusing on outcomes can be problematic
Focusing on outcomes can be a problem for 2 reasons:
1. Outcomes are about more than social work
If you read evidence of what works, even the best methods only have a relatively small impact. They may work better than normal practice, but neither is as important as all the other aspects of someone's life – social factors, their personality and relationships and numerous other things.
More than anything people try to sort out their own lives and the influence of helpers on this for most people tends to be limited.
2. Social work is about more than outcomes
A big part of social work is deciding whether or not people need a social worker. In child protection, social workers often make complex judgements about whether to be involved in a family against the will of the parents and the weight that can be placed on the views and wishes of the child.
In this respect, social workers are more like judges than therapists. And we wouldn't evaluate a judge on outcomes.
Similarly when social workers are assessing risks to children, they're also making difficult judgements about the limits of freedom and state involvement in a family's life.
A good outcome may involve being more confident that a child is safe, or a decision that nothing can be gained by further work with a family. These decisions may be great social work, but they may not influence the outcome for child or family. Rather they are about balancing freedom and protection on behalf of society.