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.
There has been much discussion in the past few years about how social workers in England should respond to cases of child neglect, with calls to take more children into care and speed up the process towards adoption. In this article it is argued that current dominant discourse framed in terms of individual pathology disregards the substantial body of knowledge on the effects of poverty and the complex interrelationships between poverty and neglect; perpetuates the blaming of parents; and ultimately fails to serve the interests and promote the rights of many children and their families. Drawing on the capability approach and the work of Lister, the article concludes with an initial exploration of the development of a more sophisticated and multidimensional analysis of poverty and parenting that incorporates both psychological and social causes in ways that challenge the polarisation of the debate on poverty and neglect.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (UNCRC) and domestic legislation, such as the Children Act 1989 in England and Wales, provide a framework for the provision of state services for unaccompanied migrant youth. This chapter critically examines the implementation of legal and policy frameworks in practice with a focus on age assessments, the provision of care placements, support and leaving care services. Fundamental tensions are explored between immigration and care priorities, particularly for social workers in local authorities experiencing financial cuts and influenced by wider political discourses and government policies. While the vulnerabilities of unaccompanied young migrants and their needs as individuals for tailored support services must be recognised, so must their agency in making decisions about their lives. The chapter concludes with recommendations for policy and practice that promotes young people’s voices, rights and welfare within a social justice framework.
Taking a multi-disciplinary perspective, and one grounded in human rights, Unaccompanied young migrants explores in-depth the journeys migrant youths take through the UK legal and care systems.
Arriving with little agency, what becomes of these children as they grow and assume new roles and identities, only to risk losing legal protection as they reach eighteen?
Through international studies and crucially the voices of the young migrants themselves, the book examines the narratives they present and the frameworks of culture and legislation into which they are placed. It challenges existing policy and questions, from a social justice perspective, what the treatment of this group tells us about our systems and the cultural presuppositions on which they depend.
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.
Revisiting their seminal text with Sue White and Kate Morris, Protecting Children: A Social Model, the authors extend and critically examine their core arguments in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and arrive at sobering conclusions regarding what the pandemic revealed about the state, its responses and the deepening of patterns of power, wealth, inequality and exploitation in our society. The social model rebuts the highly individualising narratives of responsibility and causation and locates developments in child protection within a broader economic and societal canvas. The pandemic has reinforced the core arguments behind this viewpoint while revealing limitations in the authors’ original thinking, especially around the potential of the state in the context of financialised capitalism: the relationship between the state and private businesses has become even more intimate as the ideological veneer of competition and the market for contracts has been abandoned and the state is refashioning itself as chief enabler of private capital and private power. The chapter points to the proliferation of suggested alternative approaches and ultimately holds out hope for a better future founded in new and emerging possibilities for dialogue.
This chapter examines what the capability approach can contribute to child protection policy and practice in England as an alternative conceptual framework for social work that challenges the dominance of neoliberal ideology in ways consistent with the promotion of human rights and social justice. After providing an overview of the historical and political contexts of child protection policy in England, the chapter considers the ways poverty and parenting are constructed in the dominant discourses as well as the policies and practices that have developed within this context. It also analyses the impact of interventions on parents and argues that contemporary child protection policy and practice in England is based on a narrow approach to child and family welfare and the role of social work. It concludes with recommendations for policy and practice that aims to promote greater social justice.
Using findings from The Role of the Social Worker in Adoption – Ethics and Human Rights: An Enquiry, commissioned by the British Association of Social Workers, the following article presents a number of emerging themes regarding post-adoption contact and support in the UK. Three hundred individuals and 13 organisations across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland contributed to the enquiry and the data were analysed thematically. Within this article we will address some of the challenges regarding post-adoption contact and locate these within broader, often unexamined, concerns about poverty and inequalities. Drawing on sociological literature on ‘family practices’ and ‘displaying family’, we will consider both the status of adoption and the realities of carrying out post-adoption contact in an age of ever-increasing complexities in relationships. In doing so, we will explore how those involved in adoption carry out such practices, as well as the implications for professionals tasked with facilitating contact.
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.