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.
Looking at the budget announcement of a new specialist support service delivered from 5 Oranga Tamariki sites “employing family/whanau support workers to support children and young people who are at risk of harm to be safe in their home”, I am pleased to see that at least some form of initiative has come to pass, albeit 3.5 years out from the Expert Panel recommendation for an intensive intervention programme. Having said that, this response remains seriously underwhelming. It reflects the inability of Oranga Tamariki and the current Government to get its priorities right in relation to child protection social work. In this post I will consider some of the challenges in moving child protection practice from a statutory care focus to a social work support focus. I will also explore some of the tensions arising from the conflicted legislative mandate within which this particular specialist support service will operate.
A guest post by Kendra Cox and Eileen Joy, University of Auckland
On February 25th, Tracey Martin, the Minister for Internal Affairs, announced that the much-anticipated Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill (‘the Bill’) has been parked until further notice. The Bill contains, among other small changes to deaths and divorces, a number of amendments to the current Act that would make it significantly easier for transgender, non-binary, gender diverse, and intersex people (‘gender diverse and intersex people’) to change the sex marker on their birth certificate to better reflect who they are. According to a Parliamentary press release, the Bill was deferred to clarify some legal concepts and to increase public consultation. There has been some talk over the fact that after public consultation—a standard select committee process—the specific section relating to sex self identification was added. This type of addition (specifically ss22A-J), after public consultation is completely normal, and reflects a democratic process whereby the committee responded to a large number of submissions who requested this change.
At the end of October this year, the New Zealand Law Commission released a briefing paper: Alternative Approaches to Abortion Law. This paper provides three alternative legal models to existing abortion legislation, all of which recommend that abortion be repealed from the Crimes Act 1961 and the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977, and be treated as a health issue. Liz Beddoe is Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. Liz has been deeply and actively interested in the abortion debate for decades, and in this podcast with Deb Stanfield she shares her analysis of the briefing paper and explores problems with the current law – how it contravenes basic human rights for example, and creates unnecessary complexity for women seeking abortions. Dr Beddoe explains in plain language why social workers should care about this issue, what we should know, and how we can prepare ourselves for the coming months of debate.
This guest blog post is by John Darroch. John has just completed his BSW (Hons) in social work and is currently studying towards his Masters at Auckland University. He has a passion for issues of social justice and grass-roots organising.