Friday, January 5, 2018

If it happened to me

As a Social Worker working in private practice with a client group who have had their children removed, I notice the struggles parents experience knowing that the State has stepped in and taken their children from them because the parents are "bad" parents.

I was reflecting recently on what that would be like for me, if the Department of Child Protection had entered my life when and removed my children. There was time when my partner and I would have ticked a few boxes which would have been of concern to the Department if we had come under their gaze. I recall a time when my son was eleven months old and walking, climbing and doing what kids of his age do. He had climbed onto a table in the back yard and fell off and landed on his forehead. It created the biggest bump on his forehead that you could imagine. It was a major concern to us but after a little comforting and holding he was fine. We monitored him for sometime and concluded that he was fine.

Risk factor one

If we had taken him to hospital a doctor or nurse may have assumed that the injury was non-accidentally, or that we were not supervising him appropriately. This could have led to a notification to the Department of Child Protection. Because the report came from a nurse or doctor this would have been acted upon immediately.

Risk factor two

Both my wife and I were unemployed. We were barely able to buy food. It was a horrible time and very testing on our relationship. It is likely that the Department would have seen our financial situation also as one which would put our son at risk.

Risk factor three

My wife was in foster care from three to eighteen. As strange as it may seem, I have cited this as being a concern on many Department documents.

Risk factor four

If the Department social workers had landed at our door and wanted to interview us I would have told them in not uncertain terms to mind their own business and I would not have let them in. They would have returned with the police and because I wasn't co-operating would have seen this as a risk factor and would have removed my son.

Risk factor five

My wife and I would have been extremely distressed, and I, back then, would have become somewhat aggressive, mainly because I wouldn't have understood what was going on and certainly didn't see myself and partner as "bad parents". I would have been labelled as aggressive and that my partner was living with an aggressive man and she needed to be removed from the situation. If she had declared that I wasn't abusive of her the Department Social Workers would have declared that she was failing to accept the DV relationship and the damage it was doing to my son.

Even though none of the above happened, under different circumstances it could have happened to me, and it does happen to others.

The labeling and categorizing of clients is endemic within the Department of Child Protection. Young Social Workers, with virtually no experience are making decisions about clients and their children which impact families for the rest of their lives. While they believe that they are saving children from these terrible parents they often fail to understand the impact of removing a child and the long term damage it may cause.

No parent parents perfectly, we all make mistakes, and I admit that I have made my fair share. There are times when we need help. The Department of Child Protection should be the place to go when help is needed. So many clients have asked for this help only to have their children removed until the children are eighteen years old.

Ask yourself how would you respond if the Department of Child Protection knocked on your door and removed your children? At the current rate of removal it is becoming more likely than ever before.