Child Protection – checks, balances and contested imperatives

This one is for the lawyers. Child protection and the appropriate legal framework to facilitate ‘best practice’ is a subject which has been vigorously contested across Anglophone societies over the last forty years. These debates reflect differing disciplinary perspectives and differing ideological influences such as the tension between the discourse of individual children’s rights on the one hand and claims to collective cultural autonomy for whānau Māori on the other. Much of this friction is generated by, and reflected in, the economic and political changes that have developed since the 1970s, when the so-called ‘Welfare State consensus’ started to unravel. Parton (2014) argues that changes to child protection practice over time are best understood as responses to changing (and contested) constructions of the preferred relationship between the state, the family and children; and more specifically the children of the poor.

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Viewing Facebook in social work: An (un)ethical practice?

In 2018 we published a guest blog by Eileen Joy about the growing use of viewing Facebook to gain information about individuals and families.  We were interested to start some discussion about the ethical issues in social media use in social work.  Our review of literature and codes of ethics/ conduct didn’t provide us with much help. Eileen commented :

most codes of conduct and discussion of the use of social media by social workers seems to be more concerned with how social workers might protect themselves against clients, not how clients might protect themselves from social workers.

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Thirty years of the Family Group Conference: In conversation with Raewyn Nordstrom

Raewyn Nordstrom describes herself as a Creative Native Disruptor. In this podcast she reflects with Deb Stanfield on her work as a Family Group Conference (FGC) Coordinator for Oranga Tamariki, Aotearoa New Zealand’s child protection service – work which began with facilitation of the first FGC to be held in Aotearoa, (and in the world), and ended with her retirement in early 2019.

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The Expert Witness as cultural oppressor

This blog is a guest blog by Peter W Choate, PhD (Associate Professor, Social Work, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada – pchoate@mtroyal.ca)

Peter’s work involves sustained critical discussions of the roles of parental capacity assessments and expert witnesses in the machinations that result in the disproportionate representation of Indigenous Canadian children in the Canadian child welfare system. Here, he discusses the powerful role of the ‘expert witness’ in court proceedings.

 

Today I made an appearance downtown

I am an expert witness because I say I am

And I said, ‘Gentleman..and I use the word loosely…

I will testify for you

I’m a gun for hire, I’m a saint, I’m a liar

Because there are no facts, there is no truth

Just a data to be manipulated

I can get any result you like

What’s it worth to ya?

The Garden of Allah Lyrics – Don Henly. Glenn Frey, Eagles

These words from the America band, The Eagles, is a stark reminder of the power of expert witnesses in courts. In the realm of child protection, mental health experts perform a variety of assessments that influence decisions about the future of children. This work can be in the area of addictions, mental health, domestic violence often wrapped up in the Parenting Capacity Assessment (PCA). A wander through the decisions and research literature in many Euro-centric countries shows that the PCA is a frequently used tool to guide courts in determining the best interests of the child (Choate, 2009).

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Why I support “School Strike 4 Climate”

A guest blog post by Ai Sumihira. Ai is a registered social worker who works in the health sector. She is also a life long climate activist.

I support School Strike 4 Climate because fighting against climate change is the right thing to do. We all know that climate change is not only an issue of the planet heating up, but also a social justice issue. This is the time to act to change and repair the damage we have caused, at least we should stop making it worse for the generations to come.  I can imagine that the future may look dooms and glooms from where young people stand, and this may be anxiety provoking.  Young people are right. We have to make a radical move for climate now before the earth becomes uninhabitable. Climate is changing, and so should we.

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Hōkai Rangi: Cultural solutions to material problems.

This guest blog post is by Kendra Cox (Te Ure o Uenukukōpako, Te Whakatōhea, Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou), National Advocacy Co-Coordinator for People Against Prisons Aotearoa and BSW (Hons) student at the University of Auckland.

A fortnight ago, the Department of Corrections proudly released their new Māori strategy, Hōkai Rangi. The strategy was created with the aspiration to reduce the proportion of Māori in prison from the current 52% to 16%, reflecting the make-up of the general population. Corrections aims to do this by focusing on six key domains outlined in the report: partnership between the Crown and Māori; humanising and healing; involvement of whānau; incorporating te ao Māori; supporting whakapapa and relational identity; and participation in society on release. With Hōkai Rangi, Corrections rightly identifies that the current prison system is failing in its supposedly rehabilitative and reintegrative aims. The strategy notes that reimprisonment rates are unacceptably high: 35% of tauiwi people return to prison within two years of release, and this is much higher for Māori at around 50%. However, the plans presented by this strategy, which centre largely around supporting whānau connection and tikanga Māori-based rehabilitation, are totally incapable of achieving the desired outcome.

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Back to the Future (again)

As I get longer in the tooth, I am sometimes accused of repeating myself. Funnily enough this often happens with reference to things that people didn’t much like hearing the first time. For example, the message that social work is complex and contradictory is disquieting when you are looking for some clarity of identity and access to the moral high ground. Nevertheless, social work is often conflicted.

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Time for social work to make a clear stand for abortion law reform

Liz Beddoe and Eileen Joy

This week the following notice was distributed by email to members of the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers:

The Abortion Legislation Bill has passed its first reading and has been referred to the Abortion Legislation Committee with submissions closing 19 September. It is recognised that members have a wide range of views about this legislation which would have to be reflected in an ANZASW submission. For this reason, members are encouraged to make their own submission.

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Caring for the ‘highest university’: a commentary on the Whanau Ora Māori Inquiry hui

 

By Kerri Cleaver (Ngai Tahu, PhD candidate University of Otago, Social Worker).

Sitting in the Whanau Ora Māori Inquiry hui there was a lot to take in. I had never before been in a room with so many of our diverse Māori leaders; activists, MPs, academics, doctors, Iwi and community leaders. All there for one purpose, to work together in unity, with all our multiple lived experiences.  The clear focus of the day was to look forward and to plan what the Inquiry might look like, to think about our Māori aspirations and dreams for solving the complex situation of child and whanau safety.  Important and unanimous korero was given by the panel of Dames and Knights as they clearly articulated a shared vision of a Māori owned, led and delivered future system, challenging the current system and repeatedly highlighting Puao-te-ata-tu, the dawn that never came.

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Ihumātao

This guest blog post is by John Darroch, PhD student at the University of Auckland. All of the images, above and below, were taken by John.

As Pākehā it is incumbent upon us to work to right the harms of colonisation. This means dismantling the structures which continue to harm Māori and engaging in efforts to promote redress. These obligations are also part of social work ethics and our commitment to biculturalism. Our professions commitment to upholding the Treaty of Waitangi, and to bicultural practice, goes beyond behaviour. It means fundamentally redistributing power and resources so that Māori have rangatiratanga over land and people.

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