This paper seeks to conscientiously analyze and interpret the contemporary social work practice environment using a contemplative analysis of society and culture to ascertain if and how different types of oppression and inequities in widespread capitalist societies causes social problems. The discussion will center more on child protection and removal, and the need for social workers to be culturally competent and to comprehend the political, social and economic effects surrounding this issue. The writer shall then conclude with a consideration of the effects these issues have on their identity as an emerging social worker.
Child protection and removal according to its historical development was influenced by systems that detected the correct ways of raising children (Fejo – King, 2015). this social control led to what was referred to as acts of wickedness done by social workers (Coles, 2013). the contemporary child protection legislation continues to be influenced by some of the principles from these forms of social control (Meiners, 2016).
In Australia, social work has been always associated with oppression when it comes to matters which are related to child protection and removal because of what is now known as the stolen generation (Chenoweth & McAuliffe, 2017). This brought a lot of distrust between social workers and the society especially the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were vastly affected by the assimilation policies whereby a lot of children were taken from their parents (Tregeagle et al, 2019)
According to statistics 46% of children in Out of Home Care is comprised of indigenous children yet they only contribute 5.5% to the total of all children who are between the ages of 0 to 17 in Australia (Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2018). This overrepresentation of indigenous children in Out of home care connotes the assertion that western ways are still considered as the ‘right ways’ of taking care of children. A lot of indigenous communities takes a communal approach to children’s upbringing and this has created tensions between these culturally oriented communities and institutions that adopted child removal policies from colonialists (Legwig, 2010)
The legislation is not the only thing that influences a decision to remove a child, the biases of the social worker also plays a big role in favor of or against the client depending on whether the worker was brought up in the upper-middle class mainstream environment or indigenous environment. The difference of these environments is that the behaviors that are normal in one environment can be seen as abnormal from the perspectives of another (Hood, 1997). For example where there is perceived to be oneness, sharing of responsibilities and bonding by the indigenous communities can be perceived as dysfunctional by someone from the mainstream community (Fejo-king, 2015) as a result though a workers intention is to protect the client they might end up removing a child from a supportive family into a environment where they might not be able to feel protected and safe.
The role of social workers has been seen to be lacking as it is considered to be failing to address the needs of families and children but concentrates on identifying, screening and investigating. Ibid. The current position of child protection work in Australia has been criticized by academic commentators as being forensic and investigative instead of creating professional relationships with clients and practicing professional judgement (Chinoweth & McAuliffe, 2017). According to a study done by McArthur & Thom pson (2012) social workers from the child protection department postulated that instead of them spending more time working with families they spend more time entering data and filling forms and that there is lack of critical reflection and more of reinforced compliance and also that the workforce culture which is shaped and dominated by policies and procedures.
According to Figley (1995) managerial practices in the child protection department and the workplace culture conributes to early burnout and as a result a lot of people resigns and because of that there are always new people on the job who will be challenged by the demands of the job. Due to changes in legislation in relation to preventive work and statutory there has been an increase statutory service delivery demand and as a result of that Non-Governmental Organisations are now helping in the provision of other services like foster care and other preentive meausres and also changing reporting thresholds (McArthur & Thompson, 2012).
The indegenous community which is the most sffected by child protection and removal policies are thriving to tacle social dysfunction which came as a result of intergenerational traumas (Perkins, 2018) Young Peaople Ahead Community Service in Mount Isa is working tireless to eradicate social problems of drug abuse, suicide, crime, unemployment and homelessness. Ibid the Grandmothers Against Removal has helped by coming up with some principles guiding chidl protection policies and practices. Ibid. Despite all the efforts that thsees communities are making not much change is seen in the statistics of Out of Home Care because some of their recommendations are not supported by the department because of the neoliberal ideology that frames the bases of the policies and procedures (Moore, 2018).
In order for social workers to be effective there is need for them to work collaborately with the communities in adressing child protection issues instead of using the top down approach as most of these communities have indicated their willingness and ability to come up with effective solutions to their problems (Meiners, 2016). Tregeagle (2013) postulated that social workers should loby for funding and incoperation of indegnous voices in the of procedure and policies related to child protection matters
These debates have highlighted some inadequacy in the child protection system that requires a lot of changes and that made me to be more aware of how easily we can gain or loose influence as social workers. It made me realise the power that I will have as a social worker, the power to either build or destroy a person’s life. I have realised the need for me to be culterally competent and to be mindfull that people usually have what it takes in themselves to tackle any problem that may come their way. The strength based approach is one of the social work theories that my emerging practice framwork is based on and in relation to these debates it is ideal for me to always be mindfull that the indegenous community is very capable of coming up with solutions to theier problems and they need support from the department.
I do not have much experience in the field yet but I believe through reflective practice I will be able to continously learn and assess myself if I am still making a positive impact in peoples lives or if I have derailed from my values of bringing social justice and encouraging self determination to causing further harm. I believe that we were all created to make a difference in another person’s life and theirfore by making use of the skills and values that I am acquiring, to tacle child protection matters will make me an effective social worker thereby fullfilling my mandate of helping others to help themselves.