Illuminating past social work practice: What can we learn

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Illuminating past social work practice: What can we learn

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1. Illuminating past social work practice: What can we learn? Social Work practice with mothers and babies for adoption in Queensland 1960-1990

2. Overview

3. Literature Past practices are rightly scrutinised Adoption evolved to be a social and legal process in 20th century Australia Supply & demand for babies ‘unwanted’ babies & ‘waiting’ couples ideology Social work services emerging in ‘ad hoc way’ across Australia

4. Study Methods Historical study contributing to knowledge of the role of QLD social workers caring for mothers facing adoption 1960-1990 A ‘Professional role’ (not client) focussed study “Adoption needs to be approached in an historically respectful, discourse critical and socially connected way” (O’Shaughnessy 1994:8)

5. Study Methods A literature review Qualitative methods: In-depth interviews with guiding questions (interview schedule) Sample consisted of 20 Qld. social workers (interviewed 2000 -2002) Compliments a similar study by Gair with Qld. midwives Stories were told in chronological and non-chronological ways Grounded theory approach to analysis

6. Participating Social workers Many still practising as social workers Several retired Two were previously nurses Some moved to other professions e.g. law Participants aged 42-80

7. Practice Settings Practiced in Hospitals Department of Families Small charitable institutions Located in Brisbane Townsville Cairns Mackay and smaller regional and rural areas

8. Social work practice 1960-1990 Social work - a prescribed practice -foregone conclusion ? Emerging as ? ‘fledgling’ practice with Competing forces SW’s facilitating choices ? evolving to ? Forging a reflective practice

9. Social worker’s voices: 1960s,1970’s I was a product of my age and accepted the values of the time, they seemed valid … I worked feverishly… we thought we were doing something significant ... there was a lot of public pressure… Jean

10. Social worker’s voices: 1960s,1970’s The majority of ones we saw had a fair bit of difficulty in their own family… the expectation was we would give the child a better life… social work was in its fledgling days…there was scepticism ..the older guard (public servants) (said) let’s see you do it…Lyle

11. Social worker’s voices: 1970s, 1980s It was my first job, it would have been 1979, it was only two years before that they actually had a social worker allocated to maternity…before that it was just one of the jobs you did working in a hospital… I just turned up, I had a social work degree and it was ’when can you start…we didn’t have full staff for a long time, it wasn’t too many years before that Joan Innes Reid was running the show virtually on her own…so certainly in Townsville it was embryonic in terms of social work… Rose

12. Social worker’s voices: 1980s I felt that as time went on we humanised the process … we had a regular slot with residents (doctors) about the role of the social worker and specifically about adoption ...and Tried to educate these people ... we gave lectures to nurses Lenore

13. Discussion - Social work practices tend to mirror social trends 1960s foregone conclusion -dominant ideology -counter narratives not validated 1970s competing forces, making choices - emerging rights for women and children 1980s-1990 educative, reflective practice

14. Conclusion The purpose of the study was to: add the voice of Qld social workers to available literature inform future student education and inform socially just professional practice. Recommendation Social workers may need to challenge themselves in an ongoing reflective way in order to hear the counter narratives over the prescriptive ideology of the (any) era.

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