Child Protection for the Autistic Child - A Resource
ALIENATION The state or experience of being alienated. synonyms: isolation, detachment, estrangement, distance, separation, severance, parting, division, divorce, cutting off, turning away, withdrawal;
This very short post is about how child protection services engage with families and communities.(if you were looking for information on parental alienation. there is a very good youtube from Judge Wildblood QC linked on this page Validation and thissoundcloud is very informative)
In a democracy all communities must agree to be ‘policed’. Interactions has to be fair and proportionate. Everybody's rights matter. How those that act as 'police' interact with those that are 'policed' gives us many clues as to what kind of society we are. High levels of alienation by those affected by child protection processes really should be telling us thatsomething fundamental needs to change about how we view and practice 'child protection'.For different reasons, mostly around the very high numbers of children entering care and the increasing pressures this places on a system (courts, social workers, carers ) experiencing a funding crisis, a sector wide Care Crisis Review is to be held.
"To identify specific changes to local authority and court systems and national and local policies and practices that will help safely stem the increase in the number of care cases coming before the family courts and the number of children in the care system. To do so in a way that retains focus on achieving the best outcomes for children and families and takes account of the current national economic, financial, legal and policy context that impacts on families and on local authority and court practice."
I’ve been thinking about police ‘stop and search’ powers. In a democracy all must agree to be policed and for this there needs to be acceptance of those doing the policing and their methods. Police forces should be aware that they need to use powers including 'stop and search' powers very carefully if not to risk alienating the individuals within communities and entire communities that they are there to serve.
The power to ‘stop and search’ usually for weapons and drugs is often one part of a strategy to prevent murders of young people, but this power is highly controversial for lots of reasons around how it is used. Sections of the community, usually but not always, young, black and urban, can experience searches as harassment because young, black, urban children/people feel targeted by virtue of their age and skin colour. In extreme cases a 'stop and search' has ended in death(s). More usually those searched (in particular men?) may experience 'stop and searches' as a humiliating demonstration of their powerlessness that makes them fundamentally questionor indeed change their relationship with the state so they disengage completely or engage more fully.
Child protection work mirrors police work in many ways. It is essential but has the potential to alienate a family or indeed a community (largely the community of those living in poverty with children and/or SEN-D community?) if not carried out correctly. The stakes are very high because families just have to engage and in prescribed ways, otherwise they are likely to lose their child(ren)/child(ren) that could be helped may be left to suffer harm. Many social care investigations will lead to no action but in other cases an investigation will lead to action and this action will/will not be positive for the child(ren) affected. In many cases, families including families where investigations lead to no action, may experience a child protection investigation as a terrifying experience that changes their relationship with the state fundamentally and may lead to long-term disengagement from services ( that they may need to keep their child safe?).
When it comes to use of police powers, there has been a real discussion between all affected,resulting from bad experiences, around the difficulties of getting the balance right and the need for ‘doing with’ not just ‘doing to’ communities. There are also complaint processes and in some cities, police wear head cameras and these can show whether the correct process has been followed or not ( transparency?) – this has to be good for all.
In child protection work however I’d argue (although I’m a parent so maybe only see one side of the coin?) that child protection professionals are encouraged to used the equivalent of racial profiling tools (‘Red flags’re poverty, young parent, care leaver, poor mental health/disability of child, relationship status, poor mental health/disability of parent etc) and when it comes to use of child protection powers, there seems to be very little discussion around the difficulties of getting the balance right and theneed for ‘doing with’ not just ‘doing to’ families and communities.
At the receiving end it is a very alienating experience to be treated as a ‘bad parent’ even when you could be a better parent with some/more of the right help and yet this seems to be what needs to happen if you are living in poverty or have other vulnerabilities, before you can access help. I also wonder how policymakers can ignore the fact that it is immensely alienating for our communities to be treated as though ill-health, disability and poverty were crimes that high levels of surveillance and child protection investigations will address and yet that does seem to be the perspective of many. There has to be more empowering ways to build the capacity of communities for examplethis American programmewith an agenda for change that draws on the strength of communities and the vision of local leaders to keep children safe and make families strong. This programme "recognises that creating better futures for children and families is not possible unless we take into consideration the community conditions that surround them. If a community is healthy — if it is safe, supportive and teeming with opportunities — then it will have the elements that children need to thrive."
I believe, families who have negative and positive experience of child protection are likely to know what needs fixing, what works and what is'int helpful. Many are often alienated from services and because of this, very difficult to engage. Really listening to those affected and validating the experiences of many, of being caught up in something frightening they do not fully understand, often without help or redress, would be a good start in getting these families and the communities they form part of, to trust and work with services. That has to be good for all families and children and indeed services because it is a very tough environment for many and our children need all to engage, positively and honestly with this reality.
I also believe that helping children and families affected to tell their stories must also lead to positive change, otherwise the process in itself may lead to further disillusionment and more alienation.