Infusing child protection social work with social work values :. constructing ‘risk’ in empowering ways?. Risk – unavoidable, uncertain, contingent. ‘To be alive at all involves some risk’ Harold Macmillan in ( Stalker, 2003:211 ). Infusion means:
constructing ‘risk’ in empowering ways?
Emily Keddell - University of Otago – [email protected]
‘To be alive at all involves some risk’ Harold Macmillan in (Stalker, 2003:211).
“To steep or soak without boiling in order to extract soluble elements or active principles” (The Free Dictonary: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/infuse)
“Yeah, and trying to balance out what would be – what’s the gain of keeping them in care longer versus the damage of putting them into another family when they’ve already had heaps of instability….So it’s been pretty scary, and I – at times I would have liked to have jumped ahead and just pulled the kids out, you know, because that felt like the safest – the safest way to go. But… I think that looking back on it I can see the way we’ve done things has meant that she’s made changes that she wouldn’t have made otherwise …And that she’s been willing to work with us. That she wouldn’t be otherwise. Um, but, yeah – ah, just so draining. And often feeling like you might take two steps forward and one step back”. SW14, C8.
Int: “And so how do you think doing the signs of safety approach has affected the way you think about risk?
Because we’ve done the history, we’ve done the family stuff … you know, just more questions that actually give you a better picture of the risk, not just the risk but, if the child stays with you, then how is it going to be safe?” SW10 S, C2.
“ ..we had two baby cases where – one where Dad said I’m gonna smash this baby against the wall and squash it like a bug, and another one who said let’s throw it out the window – like in a really short space of time – quite high risk! – um, and we – we were able to use the Signs of Safety approach in safety planning and not remove those children. And we’ve never taken it to FGC. Which, I’m like, that’s pretty cool. (laughs)
Int: Because what would have happened without that?
Oh, well we would have freaked out.
Int: You think?
“Int: Right. So when someone makes it a sort of hugely provocative statement like that…before you would have just acted on that statement?
Oh we would have gone ‘Baby – unsafe!’ Take it out now. Done. Easily. Probably. Or, ‘Dad leave the home right now’. That would have been our only way of …of dealing with it… we did Signs of Safety that afternoon – it just happened to be that everyone was in the office when they came back from that visit and so we mapped it straight away and then went back out within a day and put a plan in place in an afternoon so we were good…
…But whereas I absolutely know that if we hadn’t used that approach we would have just gone straight to take the baby. Yeah. Cause you could have easily written an affadavit, it wouldn’t have been hard to convince a judge.
Int: So what … convinced you that the child was safe?
…they (social workers) had a conversation with the mum about what she did when she – how she acted protectively in those times….so it was pretty… um, and it was all around saying what was she gonna do when she saw him begin to escalate…
..cause he … had PTSD and all sorts of stuff, flashbacks. And sometimes he would just click like that …So it was about him never being left alone with the baby and putting the supports around all of that stuff.
Int: And the mother was obviously able to do it?
Yeah. She wasn’t… (laughs) you know – she was alright. She was good enough. And we dragged in some family and some support people that they had to also be involved so... yeah. That was good …the baby’s fine”. SW17, C10.
“The kopu – I do their kopu, and the signs of safety I take from the kopu, what is concerning and what is helpful and that … and with the signs of safety I take it to the family, after I’ve finished doing that up I give it to them and I get them to look at that, they get blown away, they go, ‘oh, sheeks, really, oh God’, but they’re really good, they think it’s good when they can see it and that’s what they have found with (the agency) and the families I’ve worked with, that nothing’s hidden, nothing’s hidden from them” SW21.
“It’s been really interesting because I’ve spoken to a family and I said ok, where shall we start? and they say, ‘tapu, what does that mean?’, because tapu can mean so many things to different Māori you see, so it’s a good place to start, - and what I would usually say, is ok, it’s your bottom lines … what do you hold so dear that you will protect that thing, but it can also be ...something that is precious that has been broken; and the whanau said to me, ‘well you know we had our children removed from us and placed with ...caregivers without consulting the wider whanau, the mother was the only one that’s consulted, so therefore we feel that’s tapu, that’s broken and the brokenness is that we now have grandchildren living outside the whanau’, so they wanted to put that right up there, and that was their bottom line, that was what they wanted to work against.
Int: And how did you try and deal with that?
I didn’t, I just recorded it for them, I just put it up there and I said, ‘fine’” SW20.
What is the relationship between these empowerment practices in the construction of risk and safety, and the organisational, national policy, and theoretical contexts they are embedded in?
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