Working in partnership and building on strengths:
Research, policy and work for social justice


I began my career as a social worker for children and families 23 years ago. I have worked as a frontline practitioner, supervisor, consultant, researcher and policy developer, in Australia, England and Canada. I have most recently led research, policy and development work at one of Canada’s largest urban Indigenous child welfare agencies. 

I am the author of Strengths-Based Child Protection: Firm, Fair and Friendly (2018). Passionate about social justice and reconciliation,  I seek to build individual and organizational capacity in sustainable, strengths-based ways. 

I have taught at the University of British Columbia School of Social Work as an Adjunct Professor, and at multiple professional training sites. I hold a Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work from the University of British Columbia, a Bachelor of Arts in Modern History from Oxford University (U.K.) and a Masters in Social Work from London University (U.K.). I am a reviewer for the British Journal of Social Work, International Journal for Teaching and Learning and Social Work, Social Work Education, and Teaching and Learning Inquiry journals. I have trained as a Family Mediator and Suicide Intervention educator. 



I offer collaborative research, program evaluation, literature reviews, meta-analyses and jurisdictional scans. My academic credentials and extensive research experience allow me to analyse the most current knowledge so you don't have to keep reinventing the wheel. Committed to OCAP principles, I use participatory, community-based and realist approaches, and the methods that work best for you. Together we can explore your questions, generate meaningful findings and implement real change. 


Sometimes we need a fresh perspective. I offer organizational development and consultation services aimed at navigating the complexities of social service delivery in ethical and effective ways. I bring a strengths-based approach to individual supervision, project management, solution design and implementation. With more than two decades of public service experience and using the latest implementation science, I can help you sort through organizational challenges to plot the path ahead. 


How can staff maintain excellence? How does training strengthen service delivery and professional satisfaction? I have developed and evaluated new courses and have many years of experience teaching in university and professional training environments. I have authored articles and spoken at international conferences about novel approaches to teaching and learning challenges such as teaching courage and engaging in interdisciplinary dialogue. I can help you develop learning solutions to meet your needs. 


Good policy is a foundation of good practice, but writing it is not easy. I have extensive experience developing policies in collaboration with practice knowledge keepers and community partners. I bring to policy development a sound understanding of legislation and a participatory approach to defining and communicating the essence of good practice. I will work with you to write policy that is of real practical value to decision-makers, practitioners, and the people served. 


  • Led a research and implementation project to strengthen foster care practice
  • Authored the user-friendly 'Good Recording Guide’ for child welfare workers
  • Advised a provincial team on redevelopment of their information technology system
  •   Developed and evaluated curriculum for teaching social workers to have difficult conversations  
  • Wrote culturally-grounded child welfare policies for Indigenous families
  • Researched mental health screening protocols for a provincial health agency
  • Co-conducted a jurisdictional scan into care-leaver services for a national child welfare organization
  •   Wrote and delivered train-the-trainer sessions for paramedics  
  • Advised a provincial child welfare service on consultation best practices
  • Trained youth in care as co-researchers and collaborated with them to evaluate youth programming
  • Developed a culturally grounded supervision model for an Indigenous agency
  • Conducted a collaborative writing project with an international interdisciplinary research team
  • Developed and delivered a workshop for public health nurses


How can we be strengths-based while managing risk? How do we build capacity from positions of authority and under conditions of scarcity? I wrote Strengths-based Child Protection: Firm, Fair and Friendly to answer these questions. My goal was to help practitioners make working relationships that support a range of strengths-based, solution-focused approaches. As Dr. Andrew Turnell, founder of Signs of Safety® , writes in the Foreword:

"This is courageous and demanding academic work, and throughout the book Carolyn's integrity and intelligence shine through, as does her acuity and commitment to the challenges of what it's like to actually do child protection work...Anyone who wants to do child protection practice more rigorously and more compassionately should read this book".

Other reviewers have said:

"Carolyn Oliver’s Strengths-Based Child Protection provides one of the most in-depth discussions and analyses of child protection work. The author successfully engages her readers by providing thought-provoking exercises and case studies, which can be used individually by workers, in practitioner meetings, and in course work." (Marion Bogo, Professor, University of Toronto)

"Carolyn Oliver has crafted a very accessible, well-written, and valuable resource for child protection practitioners." (John Carpenter, Professor of Social Work & Applied Social Sciences, University of Bristol)

"The book is aimed squarely at practitioners and the voice of the research participants, who are all practitioners, comes through strongly….Each chapter has a list of reflective questions that could be used in individual or team supervision excellent resource for teachers and trainers, as well as for child protection practitioners. (Clare Tilbury (2018) Strengths-based Child Protection: Firm, Fair and Friendly, Australian Social Work, 71, 2, p.249-250)


  • Oliver, C. (2019) Inclusive Foster Care: How foster parents support cultural and relational connections for Indigenous children. Child and Family Social Work (accepted subject to minor revisions).
  • Kensington-Miller, B., Oliver, C., Moron-Garcia, S., Manarin, K., Abrahamson, E., Simmons, N., Deshler, J. (2019). An international interdisciplinary writing group: Perspectives on building partnerships and developing community. In N. Simmons and A. Singh (Eds.), Critical collaborative communities: Academic writing partnerships, groups and retreats. Boston: Brill.
  • Oliver, C., Jones, E., Rayner, A., Penner, J., Jamieson, A. (2017). Teaching social work students to speak up. Social Work, 36, 6.
  • Oliver, C. & Charles, G. Enacting firm, fair and friendly practice. A model for strengths-based child protection relationships? (2015). British Journal of Social Work. 46, 4.
  • Oliver, C. & Charles, G. (2015). Which strengths-based practice? Reconciling strengths-based practice and mandated authority in child protection work, Social Work, 60, 2.
  • Oliver, C. (2014). The fundamentals of strengths-based practice. Relational Child and Youth Care Practice, 27, 3.
  • Charles, G., Alexander, C., Oliver, C. (2014). Overcoming isolation: Making the case for the development of blended service learning and social work interprofessional field education experiences to improve university-community engagement. Currents: Scholarship in the Human Services, 13, 1.
  • Oliver, C. (2014). Including moral distress in the new language of social work ethics. Canadian Social Work Review 30, 2.
  • Oliver, C. (2014). Critical realist grounded theory: A new approach for social work research. In A. E. Clarke and K. Charmaz (Eds.), Grounded Theory and Situational Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Ltd.
  • Simmons, N., Abrahamson, E., Deshler, J., Kensington-Miller, B., Manarin, K., Moron-Garcia, S., Oliver, C., Renc-Roe, J. (2013). ­­­­­­­­Conflicts and configurations in a liminal space: SoTL scholars' identity development. Teaching and Learning Inquiry, 1, 2.
  • Oliver, C. (2013). Social workers as boundary-spanners: Reframing our professional identity for interprofessional practice. Social Work Education, 32, 6.
  • Oliver, C., Kelly, N. & Nesbit, S. (2013) Dissolving dualisms: How two positivists engaged with non-positivist qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 12.
  • Oliver, C. (2012). What does strengths-based practice mean for relationships between child protection workers and their mandated adult clients? Relational Child and Youth Care Practice, 25, 4.
  • Kelly, N., Nesbit, C. & Oliver, C. (2012). A difficult journey: Transitioning from STEM (Science, technology, education and math) to SoTL. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 6, 1.
  • Oliver, C. (2011). Critical realist grounded theory: A new approach for social work research. British Journal of Social Work, 42, 2. 
  • Oliver, C. (2011). The relationship between symbolic interactionism and interpretive description. Qualitative Health Research, 22, 3.

Contact me at:

(001) 604 786 0956

Vancouver, Canada