I read with a great deal of interest the following article in the local paper.
I agree with the writer that the work Social Workers do is not recognised by the wider community and I certainly can understand that they must feel aggrieved by the negative press they receive. No one can argue that the work they do is without merit and is difficult most of the time. This article features the worst possible cases, but to be fair, there are many other cases where children are removed when more appropriate interventions would prevent this from happening and families would be able to remain together.
My issue has never been about removing children from care when they are starving or in a violent household or the children are suffering from severe neglect. As a community we should be concerned about these children and we should celebrate the fact that an organisation such as Families SA is there to ensure their safety and physical and mental well-being. We need Child Protection Services as we need the police, but what we don’t need are interventions that hinder the development of children and are focussed on blaming parents rather than finding solutions to the problem.
It is interesting to note that Minister Rankin in her portion of the attached article is talking about a service which now is focussed on keeping families together. By implication this means that this aspect of the work of the department was somehow lacking in the past and therefore needs to be fixed. Solution Focussed Casework is certainly a means of addressing this issue. Any Social Worker who understands what it means to be a Social Worker will understand the value of this work. However, on two occasions I have asked Social Workers what they think of this way of working and on both occasions I have been met with a very dry response. One person commented to me that it is “Social Work 101”. Comments such as this dismiss what this work is really about and for some reason they think they are better than this elementary version of Social Work. I wonder if they even know what Social Work 101 looks like. I must remember to ask them next time I am met with this response.
I have seen Solution Focussed Casework applied and it is streaks ahead of any other intervention I have encountered by workers in the department over the past 10 years. The reason why this program is being rolled out is that the department realised that many Social Workers either had no idea as to how to manage cases within the child protection system or those that had been doing the work for a while needed to refocus their practice. The real problem is how are you going to create change amongst a work force who believe that the way they are working is fine and that they are the ones that govern their destiny not bet practice principles. I wonder how many people are prepared to embrace the new way of working without being threatened by the change?
As we read the above article we are confronted with the reality of the work Social Workers do. I understand how the deluge of work can cause a worker to feel overwhelmed, unsupported and distressed. I also know that this distress is often caused by poor outcomes that are not determined solely by the removal of a child from the parents. Does this mean that Social Workers, such as the writer above, are not focussed on the positive outcomes they achieve which could come about by working with families and having children remain with their parents because of sound and professional interventions?
Without the appropriate Social Work interventions and skill set the outcomes will always be negative.