Sunday, May 30, 2010

Attachment Theory

To better understand where child protection comes from regarding attachment theory I have undertaken the daunting task of reading what I could find on Attachment Theory. I have discovered that it is difficult critiquing something of which you may not have all that much understanding and which also makes some sense. I have often wondered about the application of the theory and whether it was in keeping with Social Work theory.

I become concerned where I witness any theory being used as a means of controlling individuals or a group of individuals. There are occasions when I see Social Workers doing this and to my horror I find myself confronting them and making myself seem like something I don't want to be, namely their enemy. What I see around attachment theory is this theory being used as a means of controlling women who are struggling with parenting. What I often see is young women, who have never had children and profess to be social workers, controlling the lives of the most dis-empowered group in our society - young women who are mothers.

Their seems to be an erroneous belief that because a child reaches a certain age they are then damaged for life and will then struggle to have meaningful relationships so somehow these young social workers role is to save these children from this experience. The truth is that we build attachment based on our experiences of the time. For a child to continue to have carers who provide appropriate attachment will provide a positive experience for the child. The onus is therefore on the child protection agency to ensure that the biological parents and any other carers are providing the appropriate attachment and when biological parents are able to be consistent regarding their attachment then it is reasonable to give the child back them. The notion that attachment is about carers behaviour and that the attachment is to the way a child is treated and this could be by a number of carers providing it is consistent rather than by the one carer. Most people in Child Protection would disagree with this notion. If they agree they would have to re think the way they work.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Working with Families SA

Over the years I have always had a mixed experience working with Families SA. There are times I find working with them a credit to our profession and then there are other times when I find myself bewildered and wondering if we all come from the same profession. I am convinced that some of us certainly attended a completely different University who had a unique and damaging way of presenting Social Work values and  principles. Or is it that in the effort to discover what social work means to us we take on a view which is more in keeping with our own skewed view of life? I believe it is the latter because I am at fault here as well. Have I taken on the role of Social Work because it has a certain meaning to me? That I believe in Social Justice, that people should be empowered to have the life they want, that it is helpful not to judge others and that I need to accept the differences of others. There is much more that can be added here which describes what social work means to me but that isn’t all that important to the issue I wish to raise in this post.

I wonder how we become our values regardless of our professional values. That somehow we make those values fit with us that we convince ourselves that we are acting in the best interest of our clients when to others we are doing the opposite. We then have to protect our position or otherwise we are not being true to ourselves and our version of the profession. We enclose ourselves in the bastardised version we begin to believe that this is our sense of truth and that anything outside of this is an anathema to all that we believe in. This becomes the cry not only for the worker but also for all those who agree with them. This builds a cultural belief which when confronted now has a mass of believers who will resist any idea which is counter to their own. Now there are a community of like believers. Welcome to Families SA.

Recently I attended a meeting with Families SA social workers to discuss access arrangements for a client as well as canvas the idea that a GOM 18 order can be amended to include re-unification of the child with her parents. It is difficult for me to describe the emotions I felt when I noticed the social workers berating the client for accommodation offered her recently by Housing SA when they were not able to offer housing when she was in crisis and had her daughter removed. The issue was that the housing was too far away from the carers and that the child had to travel too far from the carers to the parents home. This was their error not the clients.

This is a common story and a theme for many of the social workers I work with. They are stuck in a version of social work which lacks compassion and understanding. Which lacks a sense of creativity and reasonableness which would best fit with the client. There is a rigidity which limits the possibilities and presents “failure” as the only alternative. The challenge is to take the fight to our own profession and give our clients a louder voice so that they are heard amongst the chatter of poorly qualified social workers the and dangerous practices they espouse.