We are still at the cross-roads with child welfare and the wider movement for social justice but the momentum for radical change is building. I have seen bits and pieces from the Kempe Center Virtual International Conference: A Call to Action to Change Child Welfare. It is challenging and refreshing to see workers from other countries wrestling with the burning need for child protection reform. Child abuse is a social problem that is entwined with wider issues. The current risk-saturated, procedure-driven, surveillance-orientated child protection paradigm delivers unequal outcomes, in Aotearoa and everywhere else where this system is administered. Why wouldn’t it? *And what is to be done?
We have talked about the big picture : small picture stuff on this blog for some time. This is because it is THE question for social work – the key issue that we wrestle with in theory and practice. As suggested, these disturbing times are bringing out the best and worst of the human condition. The mounting social disruption and economic fall-out from the pandemic is severely troubling a world already severely troubled by the cumulative fall-out from global warming. The future as we have understood it in the main-stream Western narrative of progressive development no longer makes sustained sense – unless, perhaps, to the hyper-wealthy.
I have been awaiting the Ombudsman’s Report into policies, practices and procedures for the removal of new-born pēpi by Oranga Tamariki with great anticipation. Earlier reports have provided us with sobering insights into the experiences of parents and whānau in their dealings with the state child protection system.
In my experience former Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier is an exceptionally competent individual with a comprehensive grasp of the big and small picture of relevant law and practice. The report is even-handed and constructive. It recognises pockets of exemplary work, but it is crystal clear that Oranga Tamariki has comprehensively failed to meet the required practice standards in terms of ‘fairness or the law’. This conclusion is damning, and the evidence is compelling.
A guest post by Sophie, final year BSW student
As I reach the end of a 4-year Bachelor of Social Work degree, I am left asking myself how social workers can work to serve individual need whilst promoting social change? Can we be agents of change; do we further perpetuate oppression through practice? Or do we unknowingly do both? I have come to understand that what is really needed is the continuation and increase in support for individuals and families, however this alone will not alleviate social problems such as child poverty. Recently, several news articles have highlighted the faulty systems that social work has operated within for far too long. These demonstrate a heavy reliance on Western ideologies and a lack of understanding of Te Ao Māori by putting forth tokenistic gestures as a means of ticking boxes.
A guest post from Bex, Luis and Su:
‘Workers find themselves assigned substantially changed workloads and mandates and charged with enforcing definitions of need and entitlement with which they may be politically, professionally, and personally at odds.’ Aronson & Sammon, 2000, p.168)
What started just like any other ANZASW Facebook page post spawned a series of entries regretting the way in which social workers were, at times, forced to practice in ways which did not align to their beliefs and values. This got a few of us thinking as to why this may be the case. What powerful forces were in play that compelled some social workers to practice in ways incongruent to their value systems and, according to one entry, potentially against the law? Why and how do skilled and passionate social workers end up in positions where they must compromise on practice integrity? What creates that tension and are there ways to resist?
Issues of equity in the child protection system are currently writ large in light of the recent Office of the Children’s Commissioner reports into baby removal practices for Māori, the Whānau Ora Report, and the Waitangi Tribunal hearing into Oranga Tamariki. These reports draw attention to the persistent inequalities for Māori in the child protection system. In addition to this inequity are other intersecting social determinants, and other sources of variable outcomes for families and whānau in system contact.
A guest post by Luke Fitzmaurice.
Tracey Martin would like us to think about natural justice. If only that had been the priority in the first place.
Last week’s damning investigation by Newsroom was the latest in a series of reports on Oranga Tamariki highlighting deep-rooted, fundamental problems within the agency. Among other things, the story described significant problems within the culture of the organisation, concerns about the lack of social work expertise within the leadership team, an insufficient commitment to te ao Māori and allegations that caseload numbers were being manipulated to reflect better on the organisation.
Kia ora koutou
The ‘devolution’of state social work, particularly child protection work, to Māori is the bone to be picked. It is a challenging debate and we are potentially at a critical turning point. For a start there are the “What is an old Pākeha man engaging with this issue for?” – “Isn’t it a topic for Māori to somehow resolve themselves?” kinds of questions to contend with. I’ll get to that part in the following paragraphs. We need to be talking about devolution – again – and we need to get it right this time.
This is an appeal published by the Hong Kong Reclaiming Social Work Movement
A registered social worker from Hong Kong, Mr. LAU Ka-tung, has been convicted and sentenced to one-year imprisonment for committing an offence in the Anti-extradition Bill Movement on 17 June, 2020.