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- Author or Editor: Anna Gupta x
- Social Work with Children and Families x
This article discusses the work of a project bringing together academics, practitioners and family members living in poverty with experience of child protection services, to develop a training programme for social workers on work with families living in poverty. The project involves a series of workshops and in this article the theme of the first workshop – ‘poverty and shame’ – is explored. The content of the discussions is analysed and implications for the development of critical social work practice considered.
This article explores social work practice with black fathers within the child protection and family court systems through the analysis of case studies involving black fathers whose children ‘nearly missed’ the chance to live with them. Drawing upon theories of social justice, this article explores the construction of black men as fathers and contextualises the discussion in relation to gender, race, poverty and immigration issues, as well as the current policy and legal context of child protection work in England. The article examines how beliefs and assumptions about black men can influence how they are constructed, and subsequent decision-making processes. The article concludes with some suggestions for critical social work practice within a human rights and social justice framework.
The state is increasingly experienced as both intrusive and neglectful, particularly by those living in poverty, leading to loss of trust and widespread feelings of alienation and disconnection.
Against this tense background, this innovative book argues that child protection policies and practices have become part of the problem, rather than ensuring children’s well-being and safety.
Building on the ideas in the best-selling Re-imagining child protection and drawing together a wide range of social theorists and disciplines, the book:
• Challenges existing notions of child protection, revealing their limits;
• Ensures that the harms children and families experience are explored in a way that acknowledges the social and economic contexts in which they live;
• Explains how the protective capacities within families and communities can be mobilised and practices of co-production adopted;
• Places ethics and human rights at the centre of everyday conversations and practices.
COVID-19 has shone a light on the many inequalities scarring our landscape. As we look to the future, a consensus is emerging around the need to reject the highly individualistic focus of previous decades and to build back fairer by tackling the ‘causes of the causes’ of so many of our social ills. What might this mean for ‘child protection’, where a focus on individual families and individually generated risks has dominated? We suggest that this model is broken beyond repair and out of kilter with what is needed going forward. We argue that a focus on promoting human flourishing is likely to serve children, young people, their families and society better. In order to support such a project, we argue for the need to change our language, hold broader conversations than hitherto and marry ambition with caution.
This introductory chapter provides a background of child protection and its intersection with wider social policies and social trends. The modern child protection system emerged in the 1960s, rooted in a concern to stop babies dying or being ‘battered’ by parents who were considered to be suffering from a lack of empathic mothering in their own lives. Poverty, bad housing, and other social factors were screened out as holding helpful explanatory value in relation to why some babies were seriously harmed by their carers. From those beginnings, rooted in care for babies who were powerless and voiceless, and compassion for emotionally deprived parents, the system has expanded enormously in terms of remit, research base, influence, and power within a complex and changing society. The chapter then considers the core aspects and assumptions behind the welfare state and the emergence of a discourse around individual responsibility and risk that encompasses cause, consequence, and attribution.
This chapter traces the history of attempts to improve the way families look after children using the UK system as an exemplar. As part of an increasingly residual role, the child protection system has become narrowly focused on an atomised child, severed from family, relationships, and social circumstances: a precarious object of ‘prevention’, or rescue. As its categories and definitions have gradually grown, the gap between child protection services and family support has widened. This has a number of antecedents. First, with the exception of a few decades of the 20th century, history shows a strong tendency towards individual social engineering to produce model citizens, with parenting practices the primary focus of state attention. Second, the post-war welfare consensus has withered in the face of market enchantment and a burgeoning commissioning paradigm.
This chapter discusses the residual, but strongly legitimised, role for the state in preventing damage to children, which carries high levels of criticism for those parents seen as failing to optimise their child’s developmental potential. The idea that childhood experiences are important and can be formative clearly has a common-sense truth to it and obviously, traumatic experiences in childhood will have lasting impacts. However, a vocabulary has emerged in which notions of toxic parenting and the quest for optimum developmental flourishing create new mandates for the state to act. The chapter then argues that these are necessary to explain the sharp rises in national rates of child removal, particularly the permanent removal of very small children, documented over the last decade. They also contribute to service fragmentation by privileging intervention in the early years in the form of ‘evidence-based’ parenting programmes.
This chapter explores the experiences of families enmeshed in child welfare systems. Stories of pain, hurt, betrayal, and violence are told to professionals everyday. However, a key theme of this book is a concern that the language and theoretical and practice tools available to them are impoverished and increasingly inadequate. This is partly due to the inadequacy of a model that translates need to risk routinely, colonises a variety of sorrows and troubles within a child protection frame, and has abandoned or lost a sense of the contexts — economic and social — in which so many are living lives of quiet desperation. The chapter draws on a number of studies conducted by the authors, in particular a detailed study of families and their experiences of welfare services; and an enquiry on the role of the social worker in adoption, ethics, and human rights, which looked at the perspectives of birth families, adoptive parents, and adopted young people.
This chapter examines the evolution of the social model for child protection in areas such as disability and mental health. In these domains, there has been a very clear ‘other’ to which the social model was responding — medicine and the notion of biological damage. Similar individualised and pathologised stories are dominating thinking about child protection. It is thus timely to discuss the understanding of the possibilities presented by the notion of a social model for protecting children. The chapter then considers the key interrelated elements of reworking a social model: understanding and tackling root causes; rethinking the role of the state; developing relationship-based practice and co-production; and embedding a dialogic approach to ethics and human rights in policy and practice.
This chapter suggests some approaches to practice and offers examples of alternative models for child protection. Within a social model for protecting children, a multi-dimensional and contextualised understanding of social problems is required, as are services and professional practice which address the lack of material, social, and symbolic capital that cause harm to children and their families. For individual social workers working with individual families, as a start this means assessments, reports, and plans recognise and highlight the structural underpinnings of families’ hardships, making them visible to professionals and to the families who are the subject of the assessment/report. There can be a recognition that solutions to problems are not only about individual change, but also reflect the impact of social and economic environments on individuals and families. However, all these developments are difficult in risk-focused case work approaches. The recent turn towards strengths-based case work may open up possibilities.