Child Protection for the Autistic Child - A Resource
Rescuing Children It is a given that children must never be left to suffer serious harm or die, because nobody sees what is happening or cares enough to intervene, yet it seems to me, as someone with experience of having a child in the Care system, that Child Protection is largely framed in terms of ensuring parents do not abuse and neglect their children. Take thisYoutubefrom the NSPCC - TV AD Black and White that states rather alarmingly ''The children in this advert are actors and were protected during production''.
It can feel that advertisements like these could even be paraphrased:- “Feeling unloved? Why not rescue a child and they WILL love you for it or there is something wrong with them. If so that is their parent’s fault in our expert opinion.”
The reality is that children and families that come to the attention of child protection professionals may have any number of complex difficulties – for example, young children may be carers for parents with poor health or living with violence at home or they may have no reliable and loving adults looking out for them. Adolescents may be facing different challenges around mate crime or exploitation. Children and families where parents and children have SEN-D face different challenges again.
Any plan to protect a child or young person experiencing difficulties is as likely to involve support for parents as removal from their family. The ‘Child Protection’ system, codified in the main in The Children Act 1989 and as subsequently amended, sets out a framework for this. (thinking aloud – Can the State choose what it protects children from, choosing some things and not others e.g. removing its own neglect and abusefrom the picture because it writes the rules? Well yes clearly it does but why do many professionals or charities including the NSPCC not question this? )
So what makes a good social worker working in ‘Child Protection’? Is it someone motivated to ‘rescue children’ in the NSPCC mould or are other skills and capacities needed?
Alongside this there is a discussion within the profession about the standing of the profession or to put it another way, the status of social workers. There are lots of strands to this – the impossibility of preventing each and every child death and the very destructive public vilification that social workers are subjected to when a child is killed but it seems to me, that social workers are also hungry for recognition for the difficult job they do. It is also worth pointing out that problems with the child protection system extend well beyond problems with the competencies of individual social workers and focussing too narrowly on blaming social workers for failure lets others with potentially more culpability off the hook.
In this context social media has provided a platform for those within social work that subscribe to the cult of the ‘saviour social worker’. These social workers say their job is to ‘find out shit’ about 'demon families'. This seems to feed individual social workers need for praise and adulation. Social media also provides a platform for those that need adulation for their work in child protection to find followers - and there are apparently very high numbers of these from within the social work profession.
Am I the only person that thinks you should not become unassailable, irrespective of what you do or say or what harm this causes to children and families, once you wrap yourself in the 'child saviour' flag?
Sometimes it can see like that but there are many calling for a different approach. See this paper for example A new Paradigm for Child Protection Practice that makes the point :- ''State-sponsored processes of surveillance and behaviour management interventions take the place of a politics of social rights and economic redistribution: poverty in this analysis isn’t caused by systemic inequality – it is caused by the dangerous poor and their hapless parenting. Gillies, Edwards, and Horsley argue that a resurgence of child-rescue-driven practice in what might be described as late-neoliberal times amounts to the state being mobilised on behalf of the market to ‘secure the production of clear thinking, flexible, self-directed brains able to withstand the pressures of a global competitive system’ (p.38). This is the neoliberal take on social justice if you like.''
and this highly critical judgementof an English Local Authority and an Irish Agency that among other things failed to consider the disproportionate harm they caused to three children by 'rescuing' them even though the case or need for rescue was far from established.
And a final question
- Do we as a society REALLY want to engage with the needs of vulnerable children and their families or is a comforting narrative of 'child rescue' as close as most get?