Child Protection for the Autistic Child - A Resource
LOVE and OPPRESSION
Every society works out an approach to whether people who are experiencing difficulties or require high levels of support receive it and how they do if so, depending on a complex interaction of factors including wealth, values, cultural and societal norms, governance structures and history.
Approaches between neighbouring countries can be very different. As an example I have a family member in a European country, who is the parent of a child that was born with subtle differences. The child was given therapy for these as soon as differences were picked up in early health checks. Services have stayed very close to the family since then, assessing and anticipating, stepping in and stepping back at just the right time to ensure there are no crises, explaining the need for this continuously and letting parents make decisions about what happens next. No-one really wants to have need of services in this way but it is amazingly supportive to the family to have them and they are incredibly grateful. These are differences that needed picking up - nothing life-threatening - yet support services are genuinely supportive, personal to the child and family and wrap-around.
In the same child's primary school there are both a social worker and a therapist. Children in the school can pop in to see them for a chat, no appointments needed – how about that for ‘listening to the voice of the child?’ The State fundamentally respects the family and family members and services are well organized ‘bottom up’ staying very close to those that services are for. This cannot be as ideal as it sounds (nothing is that perfect?) although it is incredibly impressive to behold from a British perspective.
This system is structured very differently to the one in the UK and it is clear that values are different. Our public services are currently in freefall as the welfare state is dismantled without funding or discussion. Policymakers haveweaponised shame andstigma so those who need services are meant to feel they do not belong in society, and it often looks as though policy-makers are spending their time and our national resources establishing a 'chum-ocracy' like children raiding a sweet shop and loudly applauding each other at each theft leaving everything around them in ruins when they run off chortling, with their (our?) loot and turning very nasty if challenged. Whether you agree with this pen picture or not, and I accept many do not, either way we know we are in a middle of a crisis in public services with catastrophic consequences for many families vulnerable for many reasons including ill-health and poverty.
Social work is at the leading edge of how the state interacts with the vulnerable so in the UK. Individual child and family social workers, who usually just want to help children and families, are often faced with very significant ethical dilemmas about the nature of their job. We are told social workers want to work with families but how can they do this if they have nothing to offer? The job becomes about 'assessment' and 'intervention', the 'intervention' is often removal in the name of the State. When the State has done all it can and should do to support a family with a very strong focus on family support, without success, then decisions in the first instance by social workers, about whether removal is the correct route or not are likely to be comparatively straightforward. I don’t envy social workers having to make these decisions but fundamentally I believe you cannot ‘do’ social work ‘to’ people (children, parents, families), only 'with' and for that you must have something to offer. Doing 'to' is oppression, plain and simple.
That may seem a wildly inappropriate statement to some people who think oppression is something that happens in distant parts of the globe. These are possibly the same people who thought the British Empire was a good thing. Ask the subject nations (Did you not love us?) and see what answers come back. (We hated you because of what you took from us, the hardest to forgive is where you portrayed us as less than human and in some cases, took our children. to make them like you. )
If children’s social workers want to beloved as a profession, and it does seem that quite a few have a very high need to be loved, then I suggest a different model of interaction with people who have need of support services for their children or themselves. Start by respectfully asking the people affected by children's and families social work what would work best for them and acting on the answers.