Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Abuse of Power

It has been some concern of mine, for some time, that social workers within the child protection system abuse their power and authority. I emphasise, that this is not always the case, but on many occasions I experience social workers using their authority as a weapon against vulnerable clients.

Recently I attended a meeting between the Department of Child Protection and a client and her workers. The issue which needed to be discussed was the clients drug use. There is no doubt that this was a matter which needed to be raised and had to be confronted by all of us, including the client. Rather than accepting that the client had made a mistake, the mistake needed to be addressed, and then a pathway to move on needed to be discovered.

It was apparent that the client felt embarrassed and humiliated by a poor decision that she had made. Rather than accepting where the client was at that particular time and understanding how she felt it seemed more important for the social workers to hammer home the point that she was a serial drug user. We need to understand that if a client has a long term drug addiction that the expectation that they will not ever have a moment where they are enticed back into their old habits is unrealistic. In the area of child protection we understand that a drug addiction hinders a parent's ability to be able to parent appropriately. There is no denying that it is important for parents to address these concerns, but to expect a person who has a long-term addiction to not return to that addiction in the short term places undue pressure upon the client and adds to their duress.

This doesn't mean that we offer excuses for returning to the addiction, but what it does mean is that we understand the struggle required in order to manage the anxiety and stress, which is caused when someone is attempting to refrain from their drug use. When a client has ticked all the boxes, demonstrated that they have the parenting capacity required to look after, care for, and nurture their child and then revisiting of their drug addiction becomes paramount, it discounts all of the work they have done in order to demonstrate to the department that they have the capabilities required in order to become the parents they need to be. I am not advocating that maintaining a drug habit is acceptable, because it isn't, and it needs to be dealt with before a child can be returned to its parent.

During this meeting the client became angry when she was told that her drug was long-term and that she hadn't been compliant at any stage of the process. This accusation is blatantly untrue and the client knew this. For a social worker to make a claim which is without specific evidence and which minimises all the positive work that the client has achieved, demonstrates poor social work practice. I was feeling angry and frustrated as well so it is no wonder that the client felt angry and demonstrated her anger by swearing and raising her voice.

Rather than accepting where the client was, acknowledging her anger and the reasons why she may be feeling angry, the social worker chose to continue the abuse, by telling the clients that if she continued to swear then she would terminate the meeting.

So how did this end for the client? She left the meeting still feeling angry. Her faith in the system further diminished. Her trust of the workers was completely eradicated. Her sense of self was destroyed. None of this improved the situation, but instead it sends the client to a place she has been avoiding for a long time.

I accept that the hardest thing for any social worker to do is to confront somebody about a behaviour which we believe is unhelpful and damaging to others. However, a good practising social worker will be able to express their concerns in an empathetic and effective manner which doesn't damage the client or interferes with the process. Each client is different and needs to be treated differently. We need to understand the nuances, what triggers those issues which are of particular concern to the client. We should never act in a way which damages or harms the clients sense of self and well-being. It is simply our duty to do no harm. It is frustrating when I notice these simple tenants of social work practice not being adhered to nor being understood.

I'm talking about one incident that happened a couple of weeks ago, but my observation is that this happens far too often. My belief is that the reason why some social workers wish to blame clients is that the social workers believe that the client is a "bad parent". No matter what the client chooses to do is not going to change that perception. When we believe fervently that bad behaviour is the sum total of who the person is we are never going to notice the good behaviour. What saddens me is that there is so much good behaviour that the failure to acknowledge it denigrates and humiliates the very people that we should be supporting.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Forming a political party that matters

For over two years now we have been developing a political movement designed to provide a voice for children and adults who have been in contact with child protection services. The challenge has always been to articulate the need for a change within child protection services so that children and their parents have a voice.

The reason why a political party is necessary is born of the idea that change will not eventuate through advocacy alone. The child protection party, threw myself and Nadia, have been working with parents for over 10 years. Even though the work we do has impacted and provided positive outcomes for parents it has failed to make the changes within the child protection systems that are necessary. We need to think of this problem in terms of two silos, one represents the micro level where we work with parents and the department social workers in order to represent the parents in an environment where they are rarely heard. The other important silo is the one in which decisions are made and one in which we do not, at this particular point, have a voice. This silo is the legislative arm of the government, the decision-makers, those with the power to make the changes that will impact the child protection system in the long-term.

We work on the outside of the system. We are observers, we are notetakers, we are the micro change makers. When we look into the system as an outside observer we notice the inefficiencies, the poor practices, the impact on parents and children, the damaged caused and the poor outcomes for all concerned.

We are aware that there are two diametrically opposed views, the one which sees most parents as "bad parents" and which focuses on a deficit model, and the one which we see and implement which is looking for hope and change within the people with whom we work. We see a system which is reluctant to change, a system which is so entrenched in managing risk that it fails to see the opportunities existing within most parents.

In most of my blogs I have talked about the system, about parents and children, so I won't continue that rant here. What I need to say is that it is through political power and influence that significant change can take place. In recent times I've come to realise that there will be many people who will be seeking to cash in on this issue because they realise that it is becoming politically expedient to occupy the child protection space. In my mind, there is only one political party which has the knowledge, the background, the experience, and the policies to make the changes that are necessary.

It has been proven that none of the major political parties have the will, the understanding, nor the policies to change the system that needs to be changed. If they had all of this they would have been able to change the system a long time ago. Each time there is a crisis within the system, that is a child either dies while in care or because the child wasn't taken into care, nothing changes in order to improve or prevent these sorts of outcomes. As a community we can no longer allow the flagrant disregard for the well-being of children to persist. As a community we have to take active steps to change the system so that all children, regardless of socio-economic background, the way they were parented, or the way they have been treated while in care, are safe and secure.

It is stating the obvious to say that kids are our future, that unless we look after them, care for them, ensure that they are safe, we are doing a great disservice to them and to the way this country will develop over the decades to come. Each of us has a responsibility to work towards a better future for all children, not just those who are in the child protection system. This includes children with a range of challenges, such as learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and physical disabilities. We need to ensure that regardless of the school one attends or the educational standard attained by a parent, a child has the right to experience the best educational opportunities available.

It is vital that we as a political party and as a community confront social issues such as domestic violence, drug and alcohol use, and neglect, so that children who find themselves in those environments have the opportunity to feel safe and secure. This can be achieved by providing services which identify the groups mentioned above which will help them to understand the damage done by being in a violent and abusive relationship, by taking drugs and alcohol and how that creates a neglectful environment for the children.

I have stated many times that parents, almost without exception, love their children. Most parents that we encounter want to make the changes that they need to make in order to have their children remain within the family. We need to provide the opportunity for these parents to confront the issues which sit in their lives so they can become better parents. Blaming them, denigrating them and offering minimal services for them to confront and change those issues which inhibit their parenting is not what a cohesive and caring community would want.

The Child Protection Party advocates for these changes. We need to work within the political silo to make the changes that are necessary. We need your support in order to do that.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Poverty and the impact on Children.

Poverty is the singular cause of dysfunction in families. To extinguish poverty as we know it would mean a significant and vital change to the social conscience and the development of political policies. We acknowledge that poverty does not stand alone as the only cause of family dysfunction. We also acknowledge that family dysfunction is not the sole domain of the poor. However, our starting point is the light which is shone on those who are the most vulnerable because of there reliance on social funding.

As a Political Party, we are concerned about the unfair and inequitable distribution of wealth and the glare of those who have access to the resources not afforded most people in this country. It is important that we provide a focus in this area so that the problem may be addressed and appropriate solutions be discovered.

Domestic Violence, drug abuse, child abuse and neglect etc are not mutually exclusive and need to be viewed with a wide perspective incorporating all the nuances which encapsulate these issues.  Poverty sits there along side all the sins of human kind. It is used as a means of control by determining the amount of financial contribution made by governments which will assuage those in power who wish to see others as different and inferior to themselves. To confront those who wield this power means that their own greed and prejudices need to be confronted. They will argue they do what is possible by their narrow definition as controllers of the purse. While offering incentives for the wealthy to become wealthy they are simultaneously offering the poor less and placing controls on them which they would never place on the wealthy.

The bargaining chips offered by those with wealth and power is inordinately effective compared to the apparent limited bargaining chips offered by those who say they represent the poor or the poor themselves. The poor don’t form lobbying groups, stand for parliament or exert any real energy that will change the way they are treated. While the wealthy will influence the political class to ensure that their interests are best served. The political parties who receive donations from the wealthy will always have their donor’s interests at heart. This will determine the political decisions made at the expense of the those who don’t have a voice.

As a political movement, it is therefore imperative that we work to limit the power of the wealthy so that the space which is meant for political debate can be utilised to discuss those who are impacted and suffer at the hands of financially motivated policies which provide nothing but closer surveillance of the poor.   

Policies which limit the distribution of wealth impact the children of the poor. These policies subjugate children through financial suppression and continual denigration based on the parents perceived worthlessness and contribution to society. Someone must make a stand for those who are not able to voice their concerns nor articulate their experiences in a manner which changes the debate and opens a pathway towards true equitable and fair decisions which include the ALL.
Poverty is not a stage of growth, something we have to experience in order for our lives to be different, rather it is an unfortunate pathway determined by the degree to which we as a society castigate those who are lumbered with poverty. In the same way that we would reach down to help someone who has fallen over, we need to reach down and help those who are struggling with life no matter what the affliction.

This is not about becoming extremely paternalistic or superior it is about identifying the structures which bring about poverty and the beliefs which trap people into believing that there is no escape.

The Child Protection Party believes that we can challenge the beliefs which cause children to grow into the beliefs adopted by their parents and imposed by the society in which they live.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Child Protection Concerns ALL of us

Child protection has been for many years an issue which receives primarily negative coverage. This  is because the media tends to focus on children when they have been mistreated by individuals or the system itself. The well-being of children is not necessarily seen as a political issue or something that we as a public should focus on. Because children don’t vote then they don’t have a voice. We don’t listen to them, we don’t seem to care about them, they should only be seen and not heard. Unless abuse has happened to us, we have a personal experience of being abused, then we are likely to dismiss it, to ignore it, to deny its existence. When we see in the press that a child has been harmed or even killed, the public then rises to its feet, complains, displays their sense of indignation and wants to blame the person or persons responsible for this atrocity.

Yet on the other hand, we know that children do matter. Those of us who are parents appreciate the changes and the growth that we see in our children. We want them to have better opportunities than perhaps we have had. We want them to be safe. We understand the need to nurture and to care for our children to ensure that their mental and physical well-being is ensured. We will fight to protect our children because we want them to feel safe and confident that they can move forward with their lives so they can have the things that are important to them. However, we don’t want to be confronted by the abysmal abuse that occurs to children and families outside our own circle. We want to stay encased in our own bubble refusing to see anything that steps beyond the world we have create.

That some form of abuse fits within 25% of all families is an idea which very few of us are prepared to confront. There is a sense of willing ignorance which prevents a connection with the reality that sits around all of us.

Over the years, I have had many people say to me that they didn’t believe that the issues stated in the media were issues that would ever impact them, until the time that their children or grandchildren or someone who was close to them had their children removed. Until it is personal, we don’t seem to care. We don’t want to care, perhaps we don’t have the energy to care. Until you feel the pain of losing a child, you may never know what it means to have one taken from you. This doesn’t mean that you must have a child removed through the child protection system because there are occasions where children leave their families through death, mental illness, divorce and separation. The separation of a child from its parents is a devastating experience for the child under any circumstances. We often don’t reflect on what that experience may be like for the child.

Regardless of the reasons why children are separated from their parents or their parents separated from children. It is damaging, it impacts everyone.

We have a system, a government system, which is designed to take consideration for the impact abuse has on children and to protect children who have been abused. The system though is powerless at preventing the abuse in the first place. If governments reflect social mores, then the creation of a child protection system is a reflection of a social believe that children should be safe. It means that as a society we are concerned about the well-being of children. So there must be something in the “community think” that says children are important, therefore we must have a system designed to protect them. Yet, we have a community who would prefer not to have to care about children, who don’t see child protection as a major political and social issue. Yes, the community is outraged when a child is abused or dies, and it appears on the front page of the local paper.

When you look at all the other issues that concern most of us. It is hard to imagine why the issue of child protection is not even considered. I think about all the issues that seem to concern most people and wonder how significant they really are. Sure, taxes are important, employment is important, immigration is important, diversity and our multicultural society and how we respond to it is important, but are they equally important as the well-being of children? They are important, all of them are important, but the one which is lease significant or rarely debated is the matter of caring for and ensuring that children have the best possible outcome. I haven’t the answer and the Child Protection Party doesn’t have the answer either. What we know for certain is that to us and our members. It is a vital issue which has been ignored for too long.

Our role is to ask questions around the child protection system to challenge people’s views of children, to give children a voice where they don’t have one, and parents and significant others to talk about their experiences and ultimately to develop a dialogue that discusses the way the system may be improved. Beyond all of that. Our aim and goal is to talk about how we can prevent abuse from occurring in the first place.

We want people to become engaged with the problem to be able to talk about it to their friends, to their neighbours to the people they care about. We want people to become concerned, passionate, motivated and looking for change that is new, different, and significant.

There is an underlying sense of indignation when we have been attacked personally. You may remember occasions where someone has said something to you that you’ve found offensive. Can you remember the emotions that were created inside of you? That sense of resentment, the sense of injustice that just ate away at everything that you believed in. We all have had those moments where we want to fight back wanted to say something disparaging of the other person. For some, that is the way they feel all the time about the child protection system, the system that has removed a child from a parent and parent from a child. The difference here is that it’s not possible to fight back, it’s certainly possible to be enraged, angry, resentful, vengeful, and a range of other intense emotions, but it sometimes seems hopeless to fight back. So we give up. We accept the inevitable, but the resentment and all those other emotions swell around inside of us like a whirlpool. Never settling, never quiet and always, always active.

Most of the community don’t understand the damage that is done to all those who are involved in the Child protection system. Generally, we don’t see the miscarriage of justice. The pain that is created and the poor outcomes experienced by all involved.

The problem is that we want to see the immediacy of any change that governments create. The biggest and best factory and the jobs that it will create is far more important than creating better outcomes for children. Better because we see what is going to happen in the short term, and it is tangible. What benefit is there to considering investing in young people and children when that investment is 15 to 20 years from the time the investment was made. What advantages is there for governments to make that investment now when they may not be in power or have influence or be rewarded for their marvelous and wonderful insight some 20 years later.

I am writing this post because there are a group of people who are passionate about the future of our children. We feel the pain that parents feel, we feel the despair of children who are removed from their parents. We are frustrated because every day we experienced the inconsistencies and poor decision-making made by those who are responsible for the well-being of our children. Change can only come through those of us who are prepared to work together so that we all can find a new way of working.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Bad Behaviour is always Bad Behaviour

Under no circumstances will the child protection party support any behaviour that harms children. Every now and again people comment to us that we are too supportive of parents and are not critical enough of their behaviour. The inference is that because we are not critical of them as perhaps other people may be that we are somehow supportive of their behaviour. I don’t know how many times we need to say this but that is not the truth. Under no circumstances are we supportive of a parent who has harmed or damaged her child or his child in any way. You will never find anyone from this party saying that a damaging behaviour is acceptable. You have never heard any of us say that a certain behaviour which is damaging the child is acceptable. Do we confront parents who have acted badly? Of course, we do! The difference here is that we will confront them in a way which does not denigrate the parent. We understand that if we are to bring about change we need people to work with us, we can’t be bullish or aggressive or judgemental or superior, we must walk the fine line which is confronting yet understanding as well.

It may be difficult for many people to understand why we take this particular way of working. If I was to come to you and tell you that you were a bad mother that these were all the things you do that indicate to us that you do not love your children, that you are a drug addict, hopeless and helpless and unable to resolve the issues which sit in your life, would you want to work with me? You may feel that you must because people have told you that you have to work with me, but it is likely that you would not want to work with me, and if you chose to work with me because you had to, then our working relationship will be tense and probably unproductive.

I believe it is also important to understand how we view people. Do we see people as hopeless and helpless, as losers, as drug addicts, as bad parents, and simply as bad people? As hard as this might be for some people to believe that isn’t how I see others, nor do I want to see others in that way, because it limits us from seeing the good things that inhabit a person’s life. By labelling and categorising we prohibit and restrict change.

I am not suggesting for a moment that the way I work is the only way to work neither amI  suggesting that it is the most effective but what I am saying is that for me and the people that I work with it appears to be the most productive. I know that people do not see the world as I do, that perhaps some times my views are somewhat radical, different. I have often confronted those people and even  judged those people who thought and acted differently to me.

When people confront me with the idea that we as a political party are not focusing on the children but focusing too much on the parent I wonder why they would even think that. Surely, it should go without question that it is the well-being of children that is the sole reason why the Child protection party exists. Do people expect us to be angry, intolerant, vengeful and hateful? Do they expect us to express those emotions because that is how they feel about children being abused or conversely how they feel because their children have been taken from them. I understand that those emotions are intense and justified and right.
I know that when parents have their children removed they are extremely emotional as you would be if your child was taken from you. I also know that amongst the many emotions that they experience sits shame and guilt because they have been identified as parents who were unable to cope with their own children, the people they love the most. These emotions are complicated, they are not just about what is happening for them at that particular time, they about the complexities of their lives, the regrets, the fears, the resentments that sit eating away at them over and over again. Often, it is about the unresolved issues that also sit in their lives that they have never been able to deal with and are now confronted by because their own children have been removed. Often it is about their own feelings associated with their own removal as children.  
So how do those ideas conflate, come together at that moment that someone steps into your life and remove your child/ren. Whoever really thinks about that, who contemplates what it is like for the parent at that time that their children are removed, instead, we want to blame the parent for finding themselves in that situation in the first place.
We feel sad for the child, and rightfully so, that they have been placed into a situation that has harmed them. Yet, we need to understand the context, the past, that encapsulates and surrounds these people.

It is always about keeping children safe, it is also about ensuring that the cycle of abuse is broken.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Understanding parents and their drug use

I am responding to an article in today's advertiser written by Lauren Novak. The main point emphasised by Lauren in this article is that there is an epidemic of ice use amongst parents. That there needs to be a focus by the government on this problem is an understatement. There is no doubt that the excessive or daily use of any illicit drug will prevent a parent from parenting appropriately thus creating a risk for children.

The Child Protection Party experiences drugs as a risk factor in over 90% of the cases we deal with. Recently, a client asked me to seek out an appropriate rehabilitation program for her. I discovered that there was one program where the waiting period was six months and there were a range of other programs which represented drop-in centres rather than a live-in program. It was evident that drug rehabilitation programs were scarce and were not well funded.

Most of the parents I work with, who have a drug problem, which is most of them, are scheduled regular drug tests or have random drug tests regularly. This in itself creates a problem because if a person is unable to make a drug test because they are ill or feeling overwhelmed, the department will automatically suspect that they have been "using". This creates another layer of mistrust.

Some Department of child protection office's have a drug counsellor on the premises with the expectation that parents will attend drug rehabilitation counselling through this service. I think this is a valuable service and it should be offered at every centre where parents are being investigated and assessed. However, accessing the department's designated and preferred counselling service does not create compliance because clients become wary and mistrustful of these services. This means that parents often find it difficult to engage with the counsellor.

Parents find it difficult to cease drug taking when they spend most of their time discussing the drug problem. What needs to be discussed, but seldom is, are the other problems which influence the drug taking. This type of counselling requires the client to trust the worker, and the client to be assured that whatever it is said in front of the worker will remain confidential. Parents believe, and rightfully so, that statements they make to any other professional will find their way back to the department. This therefore prevents parents from being honest and open with the issues that have plagued them for most of their lives.

When a parent encounters a child protection service it is an opportunity for them to confront the traumas and abuse that the client has received, and in order for them to do so they need to be able to trust the service which has engaged with them. If that service though is a service which they do not trust then it is hard to imagine how they can experience a positive outcome.

Ultimately, we need child protection services to be a one-stop shop, where trust is established confidentiality is maintained, support is offered and working together to have the children returned is everyone's goal. It is sad though that the culture does not permit this sort of service to be offered. The culture of blame has to be eradicated and a sense of partnership needs to be established. Working with parents who trust the worker produces some amazing outcomes in a shorter time frame. Working in an environment where there is little trust will always produce negative outcomes.

Back to Lauren's article, the number of tests a parent has to do and the amount of counselling they receive is irrelevant if they fail to believe in and confide in the process. The challenge should be to create environments where people feel safe, where they can openly talk about their concerns without feeling and believing they will be punished for doing so.

There is hardly a parent I speak to who doesn't want to be a better parent for their children. For those of us who have never experienced an ice addiction will never understand the power and influence such an addiction can have on a person. For us to offer simplistic solutions to emotionally intense problems dismisses the experiences of victims. The experiences of many of the people whom I deal with range across the spectrum of all types of trauma. None of which I have ever experienced. Which most of us in the community also have not experienced. However, many of us are prepared to adopt the "get over it" mentality, without ever understanding what it is like for some of these people. By simplifying the problem we are undervaluing the experiences of those people who we want to help.

The Child Protection Party is working desperately to change the narrative so that we all can have a different perspective of what the issues are and how to resolve them. By becoming paternalistic and simplistic we are accomplishing nothing.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Child Protection Party is like no other political party

The time is approaching where there will be a change on the political landscape. People are tired of the two-party system and the influence that corporations, unions and other major players have on the decisions that are made by our politicians. As a community we need to be asking more from those who represent us in parliament. We need to have representatives who believe in the things that we believe in, the freedom to express ourselves the values of equality and fairness, and a desire for our politicians and our governments to be transparent.

There is an unrest in our community. It is fueled by the dissatisfaction that we have in our political leaders, and their inability to be able to understand who we are, what want, and a failure to deliver. In each community the dissatisfaction is pocketed in secular groups, where people can be heard crying to prevent Muslims from entering the country, or the construction of more coal mines, or the eradication of the Great Barrier Reef, or simply dissatisfied because they notice that their income is decreasing year after year. Some of these pockets are those who have given up on the Australian dream of owning their own home of having their own business or being able to send their kids to a better school.

As divergent as all these areas are there is one common thread and that is the lack of voice that these people have to be able to express what they think and how they feel in a way which resonates with those who make the decisions. It may not be possible to meet the demands of such a diverse group, but it is possible to listen to the arguments that they present and assess their value based on the decision-maker’s ethics and principles. The problem is however, that often we don’t know what those ethics and principles are, or who drives them and manipulates them.

In the United States they are holding town hall meetings where constituents are presenting to their representative complaints about the current policy direction and decisions being made. Many of these town halls turn into a disaster where there is only shouting and arguing from both sides. It is rare to see a meeting where the politician just listens. It is fascinating how politicians are more interested in the next election cycle than they are in the issues which concern their constituents. They often find themselves confronted by a set of values and beliefs which they themselves don’t hold. They then argue and berate others with the view that that will change the others point of view. My experience is that the first thing we need to do is simply listen. Only then can we begin to ask questions.

There are many people in the community who will not change their view regardless of what we say to them. They want to believe that the world is flat, so we must accept that that is how they see their world. There is another group of people though who hold the same beliefs that you may or similar principles and ethics, but they also hold other views that perhaps are not factual or realistic.

I am reminded of a woman who recently stated that the new healthcare act in the US is now cheaper and means that her son will be able to receive the medication that he requires. She expressed her gratitude to President Trump for making this change. However, the new healthcare act is still being debated and she is currently living under the affordable care act and it is the affordable care act which has made those changes that have impacted her son. People will believe what they want to believe no matter how inaccurate their beliefs may be.

Recently a woman contacted me complaining about our adoption policy. She has a foster child and clearly would wish to adopt this child. She presented the biological mother as being highly inadequate as a parent and therefore never having the right to parent her child. It may be well true that from her perspective she had the right to adopt this child because the mother may never change. Even though that premise needs to be accepted what was not understood was that not all situations are the same as hers. As we have discovered at the Child Protection Party, one policy, one idea, one initiative does not meet the needs of the whole. What was important for me to understand, while having this conversation, was the basic principle that we are all acting in the child’s best interest.

We may vary on our interpretation but it is the principal that needs to be supported. As a political party the Child Protection Party is committed to the principles of equity, fairness and transparency. There is no wavering from these principles. Every decision that we make is directed by these important principles. The foster mum believes that she is acting in the child’s best interest, and we understand that and we support that value. Because our policy states that a child should not be considered for adoption until they have been in care for five years, those people who wish to adopt immediately once they became the carer of the child will find that aspect of our policy unacceptable. However, in this case, the bulk of our policies around foster care need to be considered and not for the foster care policy to be discounted because it just doesn’t fit with this person on this one occasion.

It is imperative to understand that what is important is the fundamental principles we hold, that we are not beholden to any other influences, that we believe in the direction that we are taking, all of this with one singular view, to improve the outcomes for all children.

We ask ourselves therefore, how different are we from the other political parties, major and minor? We believe that we are as different as day and night. We will never be compromised on our principles. We can’t be bought nor manipulated. We understand that where we are at the moment is nowhere near where we wish to be. As a political force in fact, we have no influence or power at this particular time. We are more than dreamers, because we believe that all children should feel safe and be cared for appropriately. It is this goal which drives us. Nothing will prevent us from attaining the power and influence we need in order to assure each child in this country that they will be listen to, they will be heard, that their parents will be listen to and will be heard, and that politicians who make the decisions that affect children will hear what you have to say.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Stop Bullying Me

Stop bullying us.

All of us who care about children have to make a decision concerning the way we are bullied when confronting child protection workers about their behaviour and their decisions. We have to say stop bullying us.

When the department tells you that you are a bad parent tell them to stop bullying you. When you are told that you are not doing enough to have your children returned to you tell them to stop bullying you. When they are not listening to you tell them to stop bullying you. When you are working hard to have your children returned to you and doing everything that the department has asked of you and they don’t acknowledge what you have done tell them to stop bullying you. When your past is raised as an issue of concern tell them to stop bullying you. When you are spoken to in a demeaning manner tell them to stop bullying you. When you are explaining to them what has been happening for you and they fail to listen to you tell them to stop bullying you. When you are told to attend an appointment and it is not convenient for you tell them to stop bullying you.

I am sure that you will be able to find other occasions where you could say stop bullying me. Often we need to find ways to stand up against those who make unreasonable demands upon us. I understand that often you might feel powerless, hopeless and helpless. That you might need to think a little about what is happening to you at that particular time, take a deep breath, and consider what you need to say that is going to make you feel empowered. It is possible for you to gain your power back without yelling or denigrating others. You can use well-chosen words which informs others of how you are feeling.

My point is, that under no circumstances should you be feeling manipulated or controlled by anyone. It is your right to have a voice, to be heard and for your feelings to be acknowledged. Anyone who ignores these rights needs to be told that they should stop bullying you.

I understand the conflict and pressure most parents experience when they are confronted by a child protection worker. The most natural response is to be aggressive and to feel angry. Because aggression is an unhealthy response we need to find other ways to respond to the behaviours of others that enhances our feelings and makes them aware of how their behaviour has affected you. In many cases, the person you are addressing may not care about how you feel or the impact their behaviour has on you. There will be some people however, who will hear what you have to say and will modify their behaviour accordingly.

It is not as simple as telling someone to stop bullying you. You need to think about how you will respond if that person asks you what they were doing that was bullying you. You therefore need to be aware of the behaviour of that person and how that behaviour made you feel. To best prepare yourself for using this strategy, think about times when you have been confronted by behaviour that has caused you to feel bullied. Now think about how to describe that behaviour. Think about a range of feeling words that would describe how that behaviour made you feel. Once you have done this you are then armed with an appropriate tool to confront the unreasonable behaviour of the worker.

 See the video

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Being Still and Listening

When I first used the internet it was the early nineties and I used a modem that took the length of the desk and pinged loudly as I dialed the number of a University in Iceland. I can't remember how we came to contact Iceland in particular, but I do remember that it was an exciting time. The computer screen was a green mono which pumped out asci text in a granulated form. Not long after that WYSIWIG began to impose itself through the first internet browser Mosaic. I am not attempting to give you a history lesson in the internet and its evolution but when I look at where it is twenty five years later I am amazed. Back then we could never have imagined that I would be able to sit here and type into a program which could easily be read by anyone who had a computer or even more amazing, a phone.

With the technology and all that it offers there is one further observation I would like to make. Everyone now has a voice. It use to be that those who shouted the loudest would be the only one's heard. To some extent that is still true but those who are a little shy and don't feel confident shouting are now able to express themselves and have the world take notice. All of these people have something to say. They can, not only be heard, but they can influence what other people may think, or they can create a discussion which includes thousands of people who wouldn't ever have participated in the past.

As these plethora of ideas manifest themselves throughout cyber-space we are faced with the negative impact of ideas which foster a particular volume of hate and fear. I support notions of free speech but when that freedom is used to denigrate another person en masse I must object. With this new found freedom we have not learnt to treat each other with respect. The horror which is bred through "freedom if thought" has morphed into a cacophony of hate and fear which spreads like a virus.

The challenge now is to build a wall of resistance to all that confronts us which denigrates and humiliates others. We have all sat back and watched the tidal wave of opinion cascade upon us. The time has come to monitor the impact on our communities to dispel the hatred and fear and present a voice which looks for positive change and celebrates the bravery which is integral to the human soul.

When I slide though my Facebook pages I notice the resentment and the negativeness which governs the embedded thinking of those who feed my page with prejudice and ignorance. I often object so strongly to some of the posts that I unfriend those people immediately. However, I also understand that benefit of maintaining some of those connections because they inform me about the community with whom I wish to communicate.

Recently I read a report that stated that the best way to confront bigoted thinking is to have the protagonist spend ten minutes with the person they are denigrating. Conversely it is also true that if we want to understand the negativity which exudes from some of these people we need to listen to what they have to say. It is through the context of people's lives that we will better understand them. The challenge then is to engage with people no matter how much we may disagree with their point of view.

It is important these days to wonder about what informs thinking and what facts support what is being offered.

Yes, we are being bombarded with opinions and ideas from those who were once voiceless. The wall of resistance is not about pushing back, it is something completely different.

We need to be still and LISTEN.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

What is "wrong" with politics in Australia

What is "wrong" with politics in Australia.

I could begin by being blatantly aggressive and say "everything". However, when I look at other countries I consider that as bad as our political system is it probably isn't as destructive as some. There is a mood of community unrest with our political system. Or is it something else? Perhaps it is the way the 'have nots" are relegated to the "never going to have" category and that people are becoming uncomfortable with the prospect that they will never achieve financial security, they will never own a home, they will never be able to send their children to the best schools, that they will have to retire on very little income, that they have been forgotten and discounted by their representatives.

The disdain for politicians is based on the politicians lack of engagement. Most people couldn't tell you who their local Federal and State members are. Until an election is on the horizon do they appear, to tell us how brilliant they have been and what policies they are now presenting that we need to accept as being the latest best thing for "us all". They fail to tell us that there real interests lie with their base, those who will vote for them no matter what they say or do, or a survey states that the electorate will vote for a particular issue because of the electorates demographics.

The days are limited where a politician can warm the political seat and provide very little community engagement. We should be demanding more from our politicians. We should be communicating with them about those issues which concern us, better education for our kids, increase in the minimal wage, better health care services, our views on immigration and unemployment etc. The problem is that many people are not concerned enough until an issue directly impacts them.

The Child Protection Party is aware that it isn't until a child is removed that parents realise the implication government policies and those enacting those policies have on their lives. We live in a world of complacency and ignorance which prevents us from taking action in ways which will determine how our lives are going to be impacted. We are self-centred, egocentric and void of the impact the decisions of politicians have on our lives. We have in the past accepted the status quo, the notion that we have to accept what is dished out to us because the insignificant have no resources to fight back. No one cares. I am don't matter.

We then have the rise of the special interest emotive parties. Those who play to the fears that are embedded in so many of us but lays dormant until we are told that it is in our best interest to present our uniqueness by disrespecting those whom we identify as being different. These politicians are as insignificant as those who present us with blandness, right and left politics. Yet it is this brand of politics which receives the coverage further fueling their influence and power.

What we need is a new political movement which focusses on the potential that exists in all of us, a party which represents the best in people regardless of where you come from. A party which confronts the power differential and provides a voice to those who feel powerless. We need a party such as the Child Protection Party which is dedicated to Fairness, Equity and Transparency. A party where politics is not about special interest groups, party allegiances,  nor personal gain but is about the concerns of the voiceless.

I was watching "Question Time" recently and reflected on how abusive our politicians are of each other. I know that to a large extent this is a show. Later on in the evening many of them will be joking about what was said in parliament about the other. Does this mean that the rugged Aussie needs to witness political combatants verbally bashing each other so that we can feel represented. If we witnessed this behaviour in a school yard we would be appalled. What ever happened to a sensible debate based on facts rather than verbally assaulting the other. Fortunately not many people I know watch question time but it does tell us how our politicians view their roles. They see themselves as having to defend their version of the "holy grail". To do otherwise would be seen as weak and ineffectual.

The Child Protection Party confronts all these stereotypes by presenting an alternative. The alternative is non-combative in the conventional sense. We are not going to name-call and denigrate others so that we can feel superior or powerful. We have one mission and that is to represent all our constituents and colleagues with dignity and respect regardless of how you choose to respond to us. We will never compromise our principles. We will always be present to make sure that your views are represented. If we disagree with your views because they are different to ours we will accept that, and we will respect you for those views. We will listen to you but we in turn expect you to listen to us.

There is a new player on the block. We are determined to make a difference. Join us.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Social Justice and Social Work in Child Protection

I often wonder about the degree that Social Workers consider Social Justice when it comes to working with parents and children. There is no doubt that, on most occasions, they are aware of the impact poor parenting has on children and the long term detrimental effects. What I am not aware off is the conversation they have relating to where people come from and what informs parents thinking and behaviour.

The degree by which we can understand anyone is determined by the effort we put into understanding them. This includes our ability to ask questions which demonstrate a genuine interest because it is important to their well-being for us to understand the texture of their life. As Social Workers it is our role to direct people into pathways which are constructive and will enhance lives. It matters not that we are focussed solely on the well being of a child, what is important is that those who interact with that child have been, listened to, heard and understood. We should never preclude those who have an active role in a child's life.

"The social work profession:

promotes justice and social fairness, by acting to reduce barriers and to expand choice and potential for all persons, with special regard for those who are disadvantaged, vulnerable, oppressed or have exceptional needs

advocates change to social systems and structures that preserve inequalities and injustice." AASW Code of Ethics 2010

 To what extent do Social Workers provide "special regard for those who are disadvantaged, vulnerable, oppressed or have exceptional needs"? I am concerned that within Child Protection this aspect of Social Work becomes lost in the mire of the work and the pressures exerted by those who are interested in the politics of Child Protection compared to the politics of a person's life. To acknowledge the injustices and inequalities which impact a person's life provides a unique opportunity to walk alongside them and to empathise with them.

I have attended many child protection meetings where there has been the opportunity to explore a person's experiences but it is ignored. By ignoring a person's experiences we are telling them that they don't matter, that we don't care - our agenda is more important than they are.

The injustices people feel are often deeply ingrained. Removing a child is extremely emotive and is encased in a sense of unfairness, injustice and judgmentalism. To mitigate this as best as possible we need to understand what this means to the parent and the connections this has in their lives where they have had these feelings tested over and over again. We all need to understand the impact these feelings have on parents and that this often determines behaviours and how we choose to respond to people who harbor these feelings.

Feelings don't sit in isolation, separate from other experiences. They are enshrined in our beliefs which are determined by our experiences. If a person has experienced childhood abuse it is reasonable for us all to expect them to have a strong sense of unfairness. It wasn't fair that they were treated as they were when they were growing up. The child in them is still confused by the continual injustice perpetrated against them. They still feel like the abused child yet as adults should have a voice amongst other adults, but they don't. They are often still treated like they were as a child, not heard and misunderstood. So they fight back in the only way they know, with aggression fed by their anger.

I don't find any of this hard to comprehend but I suspect that many who work in the area of child protection never consider these nuances. Understanding this would help workers to better communicate with clients which would in turn produce more cooperative and beneficial outcomes.

The notion of Social Justice and Fairness seems to be lost on those who work with the most disadvantaged in our community. In order to provide significant change we have to change the way we view the problem. Social Workers need to build trust and respect. The sometimes vile responses from clients is often challenging but is only the presentation of deeper, more significant issues which are crying out to be recognised and addressed. When a worker takes a defensive stance they are buying into the client's version of all authority figures. The client feels blamed and denigrated, which is the lifelong pattern.

Social Workers need to understand the power they wield and how it is operationalised. Used as a tool to control and have authority over another will always be viewed through the lens of "injustice". I know that the interpretation of "power" is not the fault of the worker, but if acknowledged by the worker, it may help to build a better relationship rather than the flagrant wielding of it.

We should all acknowledge the injustices in people's lives and work to ensure that we don't add to the stockpile.