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Re-imagining child protection

Re-imagining child protection: Towards humane social work with families

Brid Featherstone
Sue White
Kate Morris
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    Re-imagining child protection
    Book Description:

    Why has the language of the child and of child protection become so hegemonic? What is lost and gained by such language? Who is being protected, and from what, in a risk society? Given that the focus is overwhelmingly on those families who are multiply deprived, do services reinforce or ameliorate such deprivations? And is it ethical to remove children from their parents in a society riven by inequalities? This timely book challenges a child protection culture that has become mired in muscular authoritarianism towards multiply deprived families. It calls for family-minded humane practice where children are understood as relational beings, parents are recognized as people with needs and hopes and families as carrying extraordinary capacities for care and protection. The authors, who have over three decades of experience as social workers, managers, educators and researchers in England, also identify the key ingredients of just organizational cultures where learning is celebrated. This important book will be required reading for students on qualifying and post-qualifying courses in child protection, social workers, managers, academics and policy makers.

    eISBN: 978-1-4473-0803-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. iv-iv)
  4. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Social workers are charged with entering the lives and moral worlds of families, many of whom have routinely experienced disrespect, and have longstanding histories of material and emotional deprivation. In entering such lives, social workers share with those they encounter universal experiences of loss and disappointment. However, there are additional issues that arise in the course of doing such a job involving the making of decisions that bring pain and hurt as well as joy and support with consequences that can endure for generations. This dual mandate (often known as care and control) is one to be treated with humility...

  5. TWO Re-imagining child protection in the context of re-imagining welfare
    (pp. 19-36)

    Current policy responses to the economic crisis are mobilising social forces, including social work, in a divisive and authoritarian project against those most vulnerable. In the field of child protection, as indeed in other areas of welfare, the roots of current policies are to be found in those of previous New Labour administrations, but the trends predate them. From the late 1970s onwards, the doctrines of Reagan and Thatcher became dominant, promoting the virtues of letting the market rule in a triumph of neoliberalism. Although we recognise the term neoliberal is not a satisfactory one, as it is reductive, lumping...

  6. THREE We need to talk about ethics
    (pp. 37-52)

    Written 30 years ago, this closing paragraph of a lucid ethnography of social work by sociologists Robert Dingwall and Topsy Murray and socio-legal scholar John Eekelaar underscores the moral and ethical aesthetic at the core of practice. Unfortunately, their wise counsel was not followed and social work has been mired in a series of technical fixes which have distracted us from, and masked, the moral nature of the work. Thus, the right debates have not taken place, or at least have not taken place in the right spaces.

    This chapter seeks to return to Dingwall et al’s imperative and explores...

  7. FOUR Developing research mindedness in learning cultures
    (pp. 53-74)

    In the quotation above, Eileen Munro recommends a shift in professional cultures, so expertise is valued and organisational learning flourishes. We share these aspirations, but attempting to achieve them in the current context of child and family social work is likely to produce some vexing challenges. ‘Expertise’ is hydra headed, and each of its heads – research, evidence, intuition, practice wisdom – is two-faced. All are malleable and may be used both to open up and to delimit debate. Claims to expertise are often politicised and readily conscripted into moral missions. A learning culture should foster a rigorous scepticism about grand claims....

  8. FIVE Towards a just culture: designing humane social work organisations
    (pp. 75-94)

    That society demands accountability from public services is right and proper. That high standards of practice and service delivery should be expectable is uncontroversial. However, meeting these aspirations in social work services has proved a wicked issue. The quotations above are a stark reminder of the pervasiveness of a blaming culture in statutory children’s services which spreads beyond English social work and which has resulted from failed attempts to ensure consistent high standards. The term (and indeed the sensation of being) ‘inadequate’ is strongly correlated with shame – the primary social emotion (Scheff, 1997). That the inspectorate Ofsted should use this...

  9. SIX Getting on and getting by: living with poverty
    (pp. 95-112)

    This chapter and the next two are informed by a growing social sciences literature on suffering, a literature that not only seeks to engage with people’s own experiences but also raises interesting and complicated questions about research practices (Ribbens McCarthy, 2013; Wilkinson, 2005). We would suggest that this literature offers important insights into how vocabularies of expertise have been used throughout modernity diverting attention from the human significance of what suffering does to people (Wilkinson, 2005). Such language is not only ill suited to conveying the existential trauma of human suffering but its tendency towards abstraction has promoted the treatment...

  10. SEVEN Thinking afresh about relationships: men, women, parents and services
    (pp. 113-130)

    It is our contention in this chapter that the vocabularies with which social workers in children’s services describe relationships have become impoverished. This is a point we have alluded to elsewhere in this book, but here we develop it further. Their motivations for ‘choices’ made are described as both clear and also suspicious and deliberately hidden. They are failing to put their children’s needs before their own. They are choosing to stay with a violent partner. If they are men they are useless or dangerous, or both. We argue here that it is time to resurrect the intensity and the...

  11. EIGHT Tainted love: how dangerous families became troubled
    (pp. 131-146)

    This chapter examines the ways in which families with complex needs have been understood and represented in policy discourses, and the implications for social work with families where there are care and protection needs. Family-minded practice has struggled to receive sustained attention in social work, and yet the notion of family as the context for the resolution of children’s needs extends the scope for supporting change and provides an accurate reflection of children’s lived experiences. The maintenance of connections for children with their birth family has been a focus of concern across the range of social work interventions, and the...

  12. NINE Conclusions
    (pp. 147-158)

    In his compelling history of the invention of social work in the US, Leslie Margolin describes the importance for the project of state sanctioned social work of constructing the poor as passive and nonreflexive in sharp contrast to the presumed agency and reflexive awareness of the better off. We have shown that this process of ‘othering’ remains central to the current settlement in child protection work. Indeed, it is enjoying a vibrant renaissance.

    In this context it has been an important aim of this book to reexamine the language and frameworks used and to address how those currently used have...

  13. References
    (pp. 159-176)
  14. Index
    (pp. 177-184)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 185-185)