Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Social Work standards and Child Protection

I guess I have written about issues concerning social work standards within Child Protection, in fact many of my blogs seem to be about this. I work in a range of areas and the work I do in the child protection area is a very small part of my business and is the area of my business for which I don't get paid. I am amused by the energy it consumes and the incredibly poor practices I experience by other social workers or those purporting to be social workers. I see child protection as a kind of frenzied inactivity. The morally inept attempting to display their moral fibre based on found-less or misconstrued allegations, which fail to past the most elementary test of common sense or reasonableness. It appears that all that is wrong with social work has found this one place to reside amongst the noblest and arguably the most sacred of causes, "Child Protection". It is here, in this sacred place, that some social workers can hide from being scrutinised and being accountable. It is within the walls of "Child Protection" that they are shielded by the power of the organisation (the government) and the law.

They make decisions that will determine the future of not just the child but also the parents, grandparents, siblings etc. There is no opportunity to confront poor decision making because they will not under any circumstances admit that they may have made a mistake or could have made different more informed decisions. They are not open to the idea that people change and therefore parents change. They are unable to comprehend that children are sometimes better off with parents who are willing to be taught to parent differently rather than being placed in alternate care which often is more damaging.

I have learnt so much by being an advocate for parents whose kids have been removed by child protection services. I have learnt that there are many versions of Social Work and not very many are the same as mine. I have learnt that there are many social workers who don't believe in change and that they parent blame and that they are judgemental. I have felt the injustice parents feel when confronted with a system which doesn't listen to them, and fails to understand the distress associated with losing a child. I have felt anger like I have never felt it before as I know I am being lied to and that the worker is not able to deliver anything that we are asking but they don't have the guts to tell us. Recently I was talking to two social workers from Kadina office, Paul and Keiron, and I now know that they were never going to deliver on anything they said. I wanted to believe in them so much, I wanted to believe that they were going to make a difference and that they were going to believe in my client. Unfortunately they were never going to return the child to her parents. What was really disappointing was that they didn't have the guts to make a stand against their manager Patrick who for some bizarre reason banned me from having a meeting with them in the first place. From that point on I guess I should have realised that it wasn't going to go anywhere.

I have decided to no longer advocate for this parent, not because I don't believe in her but because FSA have now made it so difficult to have a relationship with them that it has made my work redundant. Patrick the manager has told me in no uncertain terms that I am only permitted to have conversations with him and not the two workers. Is this man a control freak or what? So much for the notion of building partnerships. How little respect he must have for Paul and Keiron. I would be pretty upset if I was those two workers but there again perhaps they are so engrained in the culture that they think this behaviour is normal.

So, I will no longer have any meetings with FSA workers and particularly Patrick or any of the workers from his office or where he manages. This doesn't mean that I am going to stop fighting for change. What I have to do is find more creative ways to bring about change. What people like Patrick and others have failed to realise that if they were to work with me we could have brought about significant change that would have enhanced many peoples lives. But because they somehow saw me differently, buggered if I know how they saw me, they decided to do what most bullies do and that is demonise and ostracise the opponent. This is what Patrick has attempted to do. David Waterford on the other hand believed that by having conversations with me would be enough to placate me. This is done under the misguided belief that he has the power and that I would become compliant to his authority. When this didn't work he virtually did what Patrick is now doing.

At every level this has always been about the rights of the child. In the case which involves these people I have worked to have the child returned because I believe passionately that this is in the best interest of the child. That others in the same profession are unable to see this and want the child to remain in an environment which is damaging to her is a concept I am unable to understand. I can not believe that the social workers I mentioned above can demonstrate such blatant disregard to a child's well being when they are there to protect the child. I don't want to believe that this is about my involvement in the case but I do believe that if I wasn't involved the child would not be returned and the parents would be in a worse emotional condition. My involvement though has focussed on the ineptitude of workers and a process which is more about risk aversion than about the well being of children. I therefore become the problem, well that is what they would like others to believe.

The greatest lie I have heard, and it came from Patrick, is that they are acting in the best interest of the child. That is not true, it never has been true.

Tony Tonkin
Accredited Mental Health Social Worker
International Counselling Service
Ph 0414 883 153


  1. Hello Tony, I was directed to you site by a woman who went to DoCS NSW for assistance. The child was autistic, had never been abused.... how about I just give you the link...

    I won't go into my story, it is on the site. I promisd my little boy the last time I spoke to him as he lay in his coffin, that I would do something about what they did to him, and that I would fix the system. His name was Luke, so I started Luke's Army.

    It is extremely refreshing to meet a professional who deals with DoCS who tells it like it is. Who hasn't sold out to them, giving them the fake reports they want at the cost of a child's future happiness, to line their own pocket.

    Who is not afraid to speak out and state what is so obvious, but no one is willing to confront.

    I agree with your thoughts on approaching this problem from outside the square. I do what I can, none of it conventional, but Luke's Army is approaching 5000 members, mostly victims of the system, desperate for the return of their children, heartbroken, disgusted at that these animals have done to their kids.

    Here is a link to the Luke's Army group on facebook if you would like to join us...

    I have posted your blog on my site. I always post a link to the site I copy the blog from, internet etiquette. I hope this is ok with you. Let me know if you would like anything added, removed or the blog taken down. Thankyou for being one of the few brave enough to stand up, speak out and fight this evil. Kind Regards,
    Michael Borusiewicz

    1. Yes that is fine by me. I appreciate all the work you are doing in this area Michael. I can't even imagine what it must feel like to have lost a child. It is my worst nightmare. Your role, like mine, is to give people a voice. I do have to say though that even though the system doesn't seem to get it right some of the time there are some very decent people who work in child protection who are attempting to find ways to work more effectively with families. Paul and Keiron are actually two people who I believe fit into that category. There are people who hold the appropriate values but struggle to be heard within a system which offers no accountability.

      To me it is so simple. If you make a mistake admit to it and move on. If parents change significantly then reward them by negotiating to have the child returned. How hard is that?

      Again thanks Michael it was great hearing from you. Take care.

  2. I must say you are spot on regarding Patrick Kinnear. To give a brief history, some years ago i was fighting for custody of my daughter who was suffering from significant abuse and neglect at the hands of her mother. There was a mountain of evidence of this presented to the family court via statements from the school, the police, a number of statements from private citizens, one of whom is a JP, sheriffs officer and former acting local magistrate, she has also worked with neglected and underpriviledged children, even a statement from Families SA's own crisis care worker. All this was like water off a ducks back to FSA, and they continually ignored it all and continually recommended that my daughter continue to reside with her mother. The social worker even told me quite literally that my daughter didn't have the rights of a dog (believe it or not. She was well known even in her own department for deliberately getting fathers angry so she could then label them as angry and unfit fathers. Luckily i was forewarned of this so was able to just walk away instead of doing what i felt like doing. Even only a week after FSA got the police to remove the ex from the local hotel at 4.00am and escort her home to care for our daughter who had been abandoned alone all night for the umpteenth time (she had been doing this since our daughter was only 5/6 yo)in breach of court orders and the child protection act, all i got was a letter saying they were taking my daughter off their at risk list. Eventually after a number of letters to the minister i was able to have her removed from my case. Eventually i did get custody of my daughter but only after she voted with her feet late one cold rainy night and ultimately SHAMED the court into doing something. When i finally gained custody my daughter was in a parlous state. Underweight and in poor health. Half feral with a bad attitude. Unable to do even basic tasks like shower herself or wash her hair. Unable to read or write even basic words. Unable to do even basic maths, not even any of her times tables. A few weeks after she came into my care she did the year 3 basic skills test, finished pretty much bottom in the school and was placed in a special class for SLOW children. This was the broken child i was given courtesy of her mother and our so called family law system. I was to spend the next 10 years repairing the damage done. She was 8/9 yo. When i approached FSA some years later seeking some answers Patrick Kinnear was the manager. He stated that his social worker had acted entirely appropriately, this despite even the minister deeming it necessary to remove her from my case. When i suggested i might contact the ombudsmans office he stated that all they would do would be to handball it back to him and i would get nowhere, thereby completely undermining the ombudsmans office and pre empting a decision they had not even made. He is as arrogant a bully as you could ever wish to meet. I took a support person with me who also heard it all. Incidentally that daughter who i went to hell and back for, completed a 4 year Psychology degree with 1st class honours, and won the university medal when she was still only 21 yo. She is now 22 yo and has already completed the 1st year of a PHD in forensic psychology, yet if good o0ls FSA had, had their evil way she would have been left to languish in her class for SLOW children and going nowhere. This is what a decent father can do for his child, sadly very few fathers get the chance thanks to these cretins. Cheers. Dave Aldridge.

  3. Hi David, thank you so much for your response. It is great to here a positive story about a child who was able to receive the support she needed from a parent who cares. The child in question here is a very intelligent. It will be sad to see her brightness and brilliance snuffed out because the department is more interested in risk aversion than they are in the best interest of the child. These are good people and the mother is an outstanding parent. What does it take for Social Workers to act in accord with the values of the profession? I love what my profession stands for and admire so many of my fellow social workers for the amazing work they do, but when I see it practiced in abusive and controlling ways which denigrate the integrity of clients I am disgusted. Again thanks for your contribution.

  4. It is here, in this sacred place, that some social workers can hide from being scrutinised and being accountable. It is within the walls of "Child Protection" that they are shielded by the power of the organisation (the government) and the law. masters degree in clinical psychology

  5. Sorry is there any chance to talk through some private way? Ive just read it and it is pretty much what I feel about social worker of my child. And I really need to talk to someone who knows something about that kind of proceeding. Im really desperate and dont know hom much longer I can keep everything to myself, without then blowing and makeing a problem if there is any chance fr a conwerstion lease let me know.:
    Many thanks.