Child Protection for the Autistic Child - A Resource
WORKING WITH FAMILIES
I’ve been thinking about families recently and the ability of the wider family to support vulnerable family members long term and/or during times of crisis. This chimes with my own experience.
Don’t get me wrong, wider families cannot solve all problems on their own and early difficulties are likely to leave ‘indelible marks’ on a child.
Where does this fit with social work?
From my perspective, wider families have been doing social work for their extended family members, sometimes more successfully than others, since time immemorial. The is not perfect however describing the objective as 'preventing abuse or neglect of children' would be no more appropriate than describing parenting as 'preventing abuse and neglect of children' - a description of parenting most parents would find bizarre. Family members don't help out because they are paid to, but because they care and sometimes they have an understanding of difficulties that comes from first hand experience of the same issues. This view of the strength that strong family bonds bring aligns with the Family Rights Group's work including Family Group Conferences and Lifelong Links.
I'm not sure most social workers come with the same 'world view' though. Most seem to work within systems that treat the family unit as not entirely to be trusted with the job of raising well-adjusted, economically productive units without scrutiny and chivying from professionals. There is general unease about families that are reblended as relationships with partners fracture and re-form, fathers who do'nt take on the role of fatherhood and mothers who are 'just not up to the job' and it is fair to say, there are more and more families that do'nt seem to fit within traditional structures.
There is a however some precedent for this and social care academics have begun to analyse the ‘problem families/underclass of dysfunctional families about to derail society/feral families ’ narrative and the state’s response through time. This is just one example of a paper on the subject.
Barriers to professionals working with families.
So what are the barriers to working with families in a mutually respectful way? These are some :-
* There is a widespread loss of faith that policymakers understand that the State has a duty of care to the people, that it is about values not just about products and markets. The Welfare State has largely and quietly been dismantled by policymakers (e.g. policy for the last 30 years has prevented building of local authority social housing, fictitious services e.g. requirement to have an Autism Strategy, no requirement to have resources to deliver it, All 'have rights' but most have no right to free legal representation so justice is beyond the reach of most) and professionals have less resources year on year as more people tip into crisis without safety nets. * As part of a rolling back of the State's support for the vulnerable, 'one-size fits all' time limited programmes such as the Troubled Families Programme (easy to administer, cheap to roll out, delivered by people with minimal training) are replacing expensive specialist/intensive services. * Social workers have to implement social policy whatever that may be. Chasms in trust have opened up between professionals (gatekeepers to scarce resources) and 'service users' (consumers of scarce resources). * Perspectives of the roles of different stakeholders within child protection work - even that phrase tells us so much about how professionals view (other people's) families are utterly polarised. e.g. Professionals as Parents(Corporate Parenting Principles), Carers as Professionals(you must respect us/what we do or you cannot pay us enough to parent 'traumatised' children on the State's behalf), Parents as Monsters,(just need to find the evidence) Parents as neglectful (at best) and abusive (at worst) without the input of professionals. Professionals as Monsters (professionals as procurers of babies and toddlers for adoptive parents, 'no questions asked' ) A Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families and a Department for Education who sets policy and agrees budgets with the Treasury but have no statutory responsibility to vulnerable children. (teflon coated by design) Professionals and Children against Parents. (Organisations with a business plan built around demonising parents and not challenging the status quo.)
Where needs to change?
These are some thoughts:-
* Why not respect for Parents as Parents? ( Why would a parent not be entitled to information about their child's wellbeing and yet when children become looked-after, this information does not always have to be shared. How inhumane is that for families? ) * Why is Child Protection language so clinical? ( 'home, family' not 'placement', Loved not looked-after.) * Why not 'People as People'? ( Please stop labelling parents of children with difficulties as neglectful. What does 'neglect' even mean when the State neglects children by failing to provide mental health support / disability diagnosis pathways within Care? This is about the State's priorities and these children are not a priority. How can that not be purposeful neglect? Given what is at stake and the power imbalance, fear of social workers by parents is understandable, it is rarely 'disguised compliance'. ) * Why not 'Children as Children'? ( Children in Care would have a lot less problems if the professionals in their lives did/were allowed to/were enabled to do their jobs properly, were curious and kind, believed that good things can sometimes come from terrible experiences and that everyone is different and on a different journey through life and that is OK. )
and most of all,
* why not 'Children and Adults as Citizens' with rights as a member of a shared society not 'customers with rights if they pay' and not 'service users, people who take without giving'?
Change what you can. Download and use/ask your social worker to use the Family Rights Group Charter Mutual Expectations. The key themes of the Charter are respect and honesty, information sharing, support, participation and communication.
Challenge and work for change. Things do'nt have to be this way. These are choices someone is making so question, campaign and vote. Tell your story honestly. Thisarticle sets out where to start.
See Getting it Wrong, The impact on Familieshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDKS6NmAEWo