Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Truth about Child Protection

There is no secret that there is much about Child Protection services which I have objected to in this blog and elsewhere. Now there is an issue which keeps presenting which I am unable to understand. This week I watched on the SBS Insight program a group of people talk about Child Protection and how it has impacted peoples lives. What struck me was the refusal for people to talk about the real reason why Child Protection fails our community, parents and children.

It would be helpful if Social Workers practiced according to Social Work principles but then there is the more important need for the community to become more involved in the issues concerning the protection of children and the education of parents who are struggling. Every day I work with parents from all socio economic backgrounds who have struggled with the job of parenting. Most people would acknowledge that it is the hardest job to do and that the outcomes are not always what they would like. I work with parents who wonder about how their children have become drug addicts, abuse alcohol or are violent. Parents sit before me wondering how their child/ren have become this self centred, egocentric being that apparently doesn’t reflect any of the parents standards.

Somehow, according to the parents, society has failed them, children have too much freedom, we are unable to discipline them as we were disciplined, they spend all their time in their bedrooms and they no longer know how to associate with their own peer group. Kids these days are not only confronted by bewildered parents who feel hopeless and helpless, they are made to feel responsible for the confusion that sits in their lives. If their behaviour is deemed too difficult to manage then we drug them and label them as having a behavioural disorder or ADHD. We give them drugs and later tell them that taking drugs to solve your problems is not the solution. As parents we fail to take responsibility for how our children are interpreting their world.

What has any of this got to do with Child Protection? The connection is simple. As a society we don’t care about how children are raised because we fail to acknowledge the importance of parenting. Doesn’t it make sense then that if a parent calls a Government Department to seek help because they are struggling with this thing called “parenting” that we would have at our finger tips state run programs designed to help parents.

Rather than asking parents to take responsibility for their behaviour and the impact that has on children it is in the governments best interest to blame the parent rather than offer real help. The representative from FIN, on the Insight program, was correct when he identified the failing of governments to fund programs which help parents.

Why don’t we have a group of specialist who work intensely with parents, not just in their homes but in a class room setting? Why don’t we work with parents at a therapeutic level to help them understand what has brought them to this point? We need to understand the barriers which present us from parenting appropriately. In the groups I run I hear clients state that they don’t hit their children because they remember what it was like to be beaten by a parent. However they don’t acknowledge all the other attributes which make a good parent. They often are unable to manage other behaviours which damage children and relationships.

I wonder what it would be like if Social Workers in Child Protection had the skills to enquire about parents experiences and then to build a relationship based on support and care that would enable the client to trust them enough to enable a substantive working relationship? If Social Workers had the time and the skill set to spend with clients so they could connect differently with their children the outcomes would be different and more children would be able to remain with their parents.

Social Workers in general (within the Child Protection Agencies) do not have the skills required to provide this sort of intervention.