Sunday, October 31, 2010

Child Protection and the system which protects it

There is a fabulous article in the UK Telegraph which says all that needs to be said about child protection and the system which protects it from scrutiny. Read the article here. I read many articles from around the world which talk about child protection always in the same way. There is a universal way of viewing child protection and very little of it is good. The article mentioned here could have been written about any child protection system in Australia. It fascinates me that the very system which is so talked about and the emotive nature of child protection has become so protected and so unjust and inequitable that it belies the very scrutiny it receives.

In order for the government to protect their system they must appear to be active and vigilant against those parents who do abuse their children. As in the recent prosecution of the six parents who abused their children it becomes evident that this was more about being seen to be active and vigilant and to give the impression that there are horrific cases of abuse and that the government is on the ball and taking firm action. A case such as this and other cases where parents are abusing children should not pursued us that the system is working. It goes without saying, but I will say it again, that we need to protect children from harm. I know from personal involvement with the case mentioned above that the system will not be able to provide these damaged children the care they are going to need to overcome the abuse they have suffered ,as it was not able to help the adults when they were children to overcome the abuse they experienced. And so the cycle continues.

I have worked with a client whose son was sexually abused while in care. The abuser was arrested but not charged because the child was too young to give evidence even though child pornography was discovered on the abusers computer. To what extent is the government culpable for placing a child at risk? An apology was eventually offered as a result of my advocacy work, but I am sure the department would have pushed this under the carpet had it not been for my involvement.

The problem seems to be that the department doesn’t hold itself up for scrutiny. I know that there is a culture which propagates inadequacy whereby social workers and others object to a critical eye being cast over their practice. They object to being critiqued probably for fear that they may have their weaknesses revealed. It has always seemed hypocritical that the very organisation which has a “Big Brother” view of clients is fearful of the same gazed cast upon them. When ever I have a meeting or phone call with a social worker from FSA they have been told to have another worker to note what has been said. Now what is that all about? Not that I object all that much but do I have the luxury of having someone standing by who can sit with me when I have a conversation with them? Who sits with clients when they are at meetings and elsewhere? Before FSA turn up on your door step do they warn you that they are coming and suggest that you have someone present with you, taking notes for future reference?  I can tell you from personal experience that they do not like someone else turning up with a client, certainly if it is a professional.

I wonder how FSA look at what they do and to what extent do they retrain staff who are not performing appropriately. Who even knows what appropriate is? What is the standard of service because it certainly isn’t what is written in the Child Protection Manual?

I am hoping that the good Social Workers who work in the department will one day all band together and stop the practices which disadvantage and disempower people. I am hoping that one day the good Social Workers will critique colleagues who behave badly and report them for mal-practice. I am hopeful that the Social Workers who work for FSA realise that they have the best job in the world if they practiced according to Social Work principles. It isn’t all that hard, unless you are feeling as vulnerable as the clients you are suppose to help.

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