Child Protection for the Autistic Child - A Resource
Bias Meaning - "inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair." All of us are biased in so much as we hold opinions. These opinions colour how we approach new situations. When interacting with the world we see parallels that confirm our expectations more easily than differences that challenge our preconceptions. That is why the role of challenge by others is so important as it brings different perspectives to bear on our understanding of what we are seeing/experiencing. Groups of any kind, that talk only among themselves are likely to be biased by their nature. Closed Facebook groups, for example, unless they are very well moderated, can end up being quite unhealthy environments where it is not acceptable to express an opinion that differs from that of the majority, for this reason. Things can go horribly wrong without challenge, and at an organisational level, harmful cultures can develop and harden unchecked.
Biases come in all shapes and forms and from all quarters e.g. ‘socio-economic’ bias as pointed out by the judge, Sir Gavyn Arthur, in this 2014 case. ''Counsel for the guardian for the younger children, in particular, asked copious questions about alleged improvements in those children since their removal into foster-care. I made it clear that I found these questions unhelpful. First, they were largely irrelevant to the fact-finding. Secondly, comparisons between the children's presentation, when they would have been at their lowest ebb, following their removal from their home and months of anguish about their prospective removal, and the present, would not help the court in making the findings sought. Thirdly, it is undeniably the case that the children have been placed in households with more one-to-one attention and greater material benefits than those of their parents. Bearing in the words of Wilson LJ in Re L, the court places little or no weight on this aspect of the evidence. Putting it bluntly, it is no part of the judicial process to remove children from the less affluent and place them with the more affluent.''http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2014/4347.html
Language Jargon of any kind creates a culture where all who operate within it can come to believe they are the ‘insiders’ with an inside’s understanding of the ‘real issues’ and in the process create supposedly ignorant ‘outsiders’ who do not speak this language. I do know what expertise entails, and in my experience, often it entails good listening, observing, analysis and communication skills, underpinned by wide and deep subject knowledge. Experts will always say 'I do not know' when they reach the limits of their expertise. I’ve had professionals display the most profound ignorance of the issues affecting our family and yet these same professionals have the power to label me as ‘over-anxious’ or suffering from ‘empty-nest syndrome’ or indeed anything they want, without telling me any of this, using language that situates all my child's difficulties within our family context. This is an outrageous and harmful nonsense yet the common language of child protection professionals supports the world view that parents are at best incompetent, and ignores a different construction – one of rights and the State’s role in supporting families, including families that require specialist support.
Professionals and Challenge Is it OK to behave towards parents of children in Care as though at best, parents are presenting professionals with a problem, that would’ent be a problem if parents were up to the job of being a parent? When it comes to that, when did being ‘challenging’ become a problem in itself? Challenge is a good thing but you have to have maturity to be able to give and take it. It is a two-way thing and should’ent be a problem just some good ground rules. In lieu of rules around challenge I've seen evidence of a dangerous power imbalance that is largely unchallengeable by families, because of the fear that what few rights we have will be taken away if we challenge. How can this be right?
Bias in Research It is worth considering what research entails and where ‘bias’ sits:-
''A newspaper has papers to sell, a government has votes to win, a charity has donations to acquire and a researcher has a theory at stake. Be aware that conflicts of interest that can influence a study or the report of its findings. Even if the design and method of an intervention study looks good, the researchers may be biased towards showing the method works (whether they are aware of it or not). An obvious bias may exist due to the source of funding. A good way to check bias is to check who funded the research and check where the research is published . Probably less bias: (green light). If research has been funded independently by the central UK government through one of its research funding Councils; through regional government (e.g. The Welsh Government) or by certain charity research funders, then it is less likely to be biased. The research funding has been allocated on a competition basis (not commissioned) and has been rigorously and anonymously reviewed by other scientists. If research is reported in peer reviewed scientific journals it is also less likely to be biased. This means that the methods used in the research have also been checked and reviewed by professional researchers, and the article will only appear in the journal if it’s been approved. You can see whether or not a journal is peer reviewed on the front page of the journal or the journal website’s home page.
Much of what is produced as evidence in child protection theory would not meet these standards for unbiased research and yet families and children in need are subjected to 'interventions' based on it. Do'nt we deserve more than to be treated as guinea pigs for the latest programme based on the latest theory often delivered by non-statutory organisations with a commercial imperative to sell these programmes and their services? (e.g. Attachment Theory/Trauma Informed, Commercial Parenting programmes, ACE's'** )
Transparency Sir Gavyn Arthur also said, "Family justice cannot perform the vital task it does in protecting children without honesty, objectivity, transparency and fairness." http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2014/4347.html Transparency is a key tool in ensuring toxic cultures and systems do not evolve and where they exist, in breaking them down. See ‘Transparency in the Family Court with Lucy Reed and Paul Magrath’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpJmjzr23ss for more on this subject.
Holding to Account Professionals play very important roles in vulnerable families lives Families need them to carry out these roles with professionalism, genuine expertise, integrity and fairness. I’ve made tough decisions in my life and I’ve had to live with the consequences, both good and bad. Why should professionals be immune from consequences from poor decision-making and when they fall below the standard expected of them?
There has to be be a change in how we hold to account those in authority who make decisions, sometimes very bad decisions, about our children. What kind of system are we settling for otherwise - unreliable, ineffective, biased against families experiencing difficulties and too often harmful to those it exists to help?