Monday, June 4, 2018

This is not the end, it is the beginning

I have reached the point of total frustration with the child protection system and those people who work with in it. For 12 years I have been working with clients who are confronted by a system which ignores their basic human rights. They have the right to be heard, to be understood to be treated fairly and with compassion. What grieves me the most is that there is no avenue in which to confront those who are the gatekeepers of the child protection system. It doesn't seem to matter how loud we shout, or how many people gathered to protest, or how many Facebook pages people have, or videos that are produced. Nothing, ever seems to change.

Over the past couple of weeks I have had a family who needs to be reunited have placed before them further stumbling blocks. A family that has dramatically changed their behaviours and eradicated substance abuse and violence from their lives, rejected and access cut down to 30 minutes per month. A father called me on the weekend to tell me that fifty minutes after a child was born the Department was their to remove the child

This is my life, working with families so that they can be heard and understood and at the same time working against a system which fails parents and their children at every turn. It was suggested to me recently that I need to accept that this system, the people that govern this system are not, is not, going to change. No matter how many sleepless nights we have or how many appointments we attend or how many review meetings we have, nothing, is going to change.

As I sit in this quagmire of despair I am confronted with a range of possibilities one of which is to cease the fight and believe that this should be left up to others who perhaps are better equipped. Then, I wonder who they would be because they have not become apparent in my life apart from my colleague Nadia. I dislike the notion that we have to fight, yet I can't escape the feeling that this is what we are doing. It is as if you're standing in a valley and looking up onto the mountain and from the top of that mountain and the ridges sits a fierce and threatening tribe, prepared to descend down upon you with all the resources they can muster.

They hide behind their sense of righteousness. The belief that they are acting in the best interests of the children and anyone who challenges that belief is unprofessional and therefore doesn't have a place at the table. It is true, they hold all the cards. Their perspective is the only perspective which needs to be considered. Any other view is the anti-thesis to the basic tenant regarding "acting in the best interest of the children". To hold an alternate view counters all that they believe in and certainly challenges the status quo.

Where is the negotiating, the listening to others and understanding their point of view. What is the point of an advocate if the counter view is silenced? How can the children and the parents be heard amongst the noise generated by the social workers who work for the Department? The noise is the views held concerning parents, drug addicted and violent thus creatingT a barrier which prevents alternate views from being heard. It is almost impossible to challenge those views which are founded on gender bias, socio-economic disadvantage, racism and middle class views of the most vulnerable people in our community.

There are many times when I consider giving up. As I look up to that mountain and consider the self-destruction which will follow, accepting the apparent hopelessness and helplessness, I come to the realisation that I am not alone. I look behind me and am encouraged by the faces that I see. The faces of those people who believe in me. Those faces out number those on the mountain. They may not be as well-equipped for the battle as the others but they have a determination and a spirit which, in the end, will counter all that will come down upon them.

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