Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Its Politics that keeps children in care

Recently I was told that Families SA would not support the return of a clients child to the mother regardless of the changes the mother had made. As disappointing as this is it caused me to wonder about the reasons such a decision would be made given that the social workers working with the mother and child would agree that the mother is more than capable of looking after and caring for her daughter. If I was to ask what the reasons were, I am sure I would receive a response that was unsatisfactory so it is better not to ask. What I am left to do is speculate.

I believe that if this mother was “mother Theresa” it wouldn’t change their decision. The reason for this is that if they began to release children back into their parents care it would be admitting that perhaps they didn’t do their job properly in the first instance, which in this case they didn’t. They would set a precedent which would mean that more parents such as my client would see the department as “weakening” and these parents would also want their children back. What would they do if they happened to make a mistake? None of the reasons why they would not return a child to someone like my client has anything to do with the child’s wellbeing, and certainly has nothing to do with Social Work.

In fact the real reasons why they wont return the child will be played out in court by Crown solicitors who don’t give a damn about the child anyway and who are more interested in acting for their self serving masters. Everyone who supports the mother will be questioned in an effort to prove that they are really not supportive of the mother or to find some fault in their testimony which will make them appear unreliable. None of this is about what is in the best interest of the child it becomes all about winning the case.

The likes of David Waterford, who represents the state care system in this state, need to understand that they are a terrible parent and in some cases are not acting in the best interest of the children. There is something quite ironical about the notion that David is the “Head of the Household” but never meets the children. Talk about an absent father. The “Waterford Factor” is the idea that under no circumstances where a child is on a GOM 18 should they be returned to their parent/s. This is in essence contradicts all that we as Social Workers stand for. Social Work is about change and those of us who do this work no and work for change in individuals, and experience it. When a parent changes significantly and this change is sustained then they need be rewarded. Somehow within child protection that is a strange notion.

As much as I admire David and others like him for the effort they are putting into changing the structures under which they work and the way David supports, sometimes blindly, his staff, I know that very little will change as long as The Waterford Factor” is present. When Child Protection becomes about “politics” decisions will always be made which are not about what is in the child’s best interest.

If the Social Workers workers who are working with my client were given the authority to do what they considered was in the child’s best interest the child would probably be with her mother today or at least close to reunification. But because these people are not seeing the political impact of such a decision they are prohibited from doing what is in the best interest of the child. For some Social Workers working within child protection this must be very frustrating. It would be a wonderful thing if you all could make a stand and express your beliefs and social work values. It would be refreshing to have you speak out against the restrictions that you experience when attempting to practice social work.

I was reminded at a recent meeting that Child Protection plays a part in keeping children safe. I was also reminded, AGAIN, that it is all about what is in the best interest of the child. People keep reminding me of this because they, through these veiled comments, are suggesting that I haven’t the child’s best interests in mind. That is utter crap. My assessment of parents is thorough and comprehensive. I have never advocated for a child to be returned to a parent where I have had concerns for the child’s safety. 

For all social workers it is important to understand that we are not to become involved in politics which is harmful, disrespectful and which is not in accord with Social Work values. The danger has always been that “The Waterford Factor” ignores the needs of individuals and focus’s on political structures and risk. It fails to understand what Social Work represents and how effective Social Work can be in changing peoples lives.