Saturday, 19 January 2013

Child Welfare Policy and Child Protection Services in Canada (Anish Alex MSW, RSW)

Child Welfare Policy and Child Protection Services in Canada
     Since last two decades Canada being experienced softer and harder forms of neo-liberal economical impetus. Many of these reforms targeted social benefits and divided marginalised people into deserved and undeserved category (McKeen, 2006). At a large level, social policies are shaped by the exploration of dominant ideas about a social issue. Existing political views and the interest of the dominant policy community are predominantly influencing policy making.  The mainstream discourses for solutions of social problems and policy outcomes are increasingly underrepresented and narrow down the focus of social welfare in Canada. This paper is an attempt to analyze the  existing social policies related to child protection.
     The reforms of child welfare policy discourse started in 1990s. The framework of the current child welfare approaches were directed from the dominant discourse of ‘national children’s agenda’ initiatives. Since then, there have been many major changes happened in the mainstream social policy in child welfare sector. The national and global political influences and world economic pressure forces federal and provincial governments to control the social security and welfare programs and it reflects in child welfare system too (McKeen, 2006). Politics in Canada has a serious notion on key ideologies while restructuring child welfare policies. Ontario’s Child and Family service Act 1984, was developed on the principle of minimal family intervention with a view that children need to be protected in their own homes (Dumbrill, 2006b). The conceptual models of the mainstream society and policy community cleverly hold child welfare model with an assumption that the child welfare programs can effectively treat the assumed deficiencies of the families.
     Likewise, child protection in Canada is identified as a statutory regulation to establish state interference in families. Child protection is consistently investigative in terms of its provisions and legislative in terms of its nature (Davies, Krane, McKinnon, Rains, & Mastronardi, 2002). Policies and legislations related to child welfare are often shaped by various pressures from people and media. Dumbrill (2006b) refers that the public opinion reflects on media which influences policy discourses. The policy reforms and transformations have been made in child welfare system, oscillating between high-intervention and low intervention paradigm. Precisely, shift between state protection and family preservation is taking place based on public opinion and media responses over the time.
     Consequently, child risk assessment is always framed on the basis of government policies; a standardised form of assessment and procedures are following in Canada since last few decades. The risk assessment mandate of the current child protection practice is crop up in connection with individual responsibility of neo-liberal ideology. The right of the worker is given during their “mandate to investigate, monitor, assess and dispose” (Strega & Carriere, 2009 p.16) of child protection cases under the legal system. As a result child protection practice merely becomes a risk assessment model of bureaucratic approach. Apparently, child protection in Canada turn out as a mechanical social intervention with more focus on short term remedial recommendations and limited or no emphasis on holistic view of the problem (Strega & Carriere, 2009 p.20).  This process is not really supporting the family in terms of a long term “helping, healing and change”. The current risk assessment process reinforces the idea that once the risk is identified or properly addressed, the children are safe and prevented from future risk. It also broadens the false notion that child welfare means protection of the children rather than providing support to the children and family. 
     Despite these factors, current child welfare policy exposes a whitewashed compassionate face of its child protection services, with the basic assumption that individuals are in need of attention and healing not the oppressive structures (McKeen, 2006). It appears that the current system is not sufficiently addressing the social problem rather the policy agenda itself creates and maintain the social problems like poverty, social divisiveness and discrimination.  Indeed, the system oversimplifying the reality of life experiences and blaming the family that the collective social issues are the result of individual failure.
     Evidently, child welfare policy is relying on the normative Eurocentric, middle class ideology of motherhood, obscure in various facets of socially constructed identities and stereotypes. The reforms in the provincial child welfare legislation and proceduralized interventions compel workers to give more attention to mothers to make them over responsible for shielding children from abuses (Krane & Carlton, 2009).
     Incontestably, social policies and its implementation especially in the field of child welfare is a collective responsibility. Progressive child welfare discourse demands a fundamentally different approach for child protection mandate especially in the assessment and procedures. As Dumbrill (2006b) suggests a cooperative infrastructure of agency, family and community can make changes in child protection field. Policy makers should understand the dynamism of child welfare and strengthen the families rather than focusing structural aspects of bureaucratic child protection agencies. A “communication infrastructure” with   a collaboration and partnership of different community organizations can make up the existing service gaps in the child protection sector in Canada

Anish Alex MSW, RSW 

Collings, S., & Davies, L. (2008). For the Sake of Children': Making sense of children and childhood in the context of child protection. Journal Of Social Work Practice, 22(2), 181-193. doi:10.1080/02650530802099791
Davies, L. L., Krane, J. J., McKinnon, M. M., Rains, P. P., & Mastronardi, L. L. (2002). Beyond the state: conceptualizing protection in community settings. Social Work Education, 21(6), 623-633. doi:10.1080/0261547022000026346
Davies, L. (2004). ‘The difference between child abuse and child protection could be you’: creating a community network of protective adults. Child Abuse Review, 13(6), 426-432. doi:10.1002/car.872
Dumbrill, G. C. (2006a). Parental experience of child protection intervention: A qualitative study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 30(1), 27-37. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2005.08.012
Dumbrill, G.C (2006b). Ontario’s child welfare transformation: another swing of the pendulum? Canadian Social Work Review. 23(1-2), 5-19.
Magnuson, D., Patten, N., & Looysen, K. (2012). Negotiation as a style in child protection work. Child & Family Social Work, 17(3), 296-305. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2206.2011.00780.x
McKeen, W. (2006). Diminishing the concept of social policy: The shifting conceptual ground of social policy debate in Canada. Critical Social Policy26(4), 865-887.
Strega Susan and Jeannine Carrière (Eds.). (2009). Walking this path together: anti-racist and anti-oppressive child welfare practice. Halifax, NS: Fernwood Publishing.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Western Social Work Practice in non-Western Countries (Anish Alex MSW, RSW)

Western Social Work Practice in non-Western Countries

The history of modern social work practice begins in the Western world in the 19th century. Due to the complexities associated with the social change occurred during the industrialization and urbanization period affected traditional patterns of family and community support systems in the western world. As a result, a modern organized form of support and care system has been developed to supplement and complement family and community care system called professional social work. The practice of institutionalized care system played key role in the new profession, developed from an Anglo-American standpoint of liberal, Judeo-Christian, capitalist values and philosophies. Western social work practice and philosophies face various challenges in a different ethno-cultural setting (Tsui & Yan, 2010) of non-western countries.
     The historical frameworks of settlement movements and the social care demands of urbanization in the west historically made significant structural and pragmatic changes in the social work profession and created more responsive to the local needs of Western countries (Gray & Fook, 2004). Precisely, this helping profession was originally developed to meet the needs of the ethno-cultural communities of the western industrialized society. The western version of this modern care profession traveled from west to fit in the local needs of other regions of the globe as part of charitable efforts of missionaries, British colonialism, globalization and open trade. This article attempts to examine the implications of western social work practices in non-Western countries with special focus on historical, cultural and social factors. I argue that western social work practice is not only fit for the culture it faces serious challenges to meet the unique requirements of isolated, remote, and culturally diverse population in other regions. Despite of the debate about the core mission of the social work practice, this profession could achieve a good reputation among western care world by stabilizing or controlling problems of the capitalist societies.

     Nagpaul, (1972) and  Midgley, (1981) viewed that many developing countries like Latin American countries, several Asian countries and much of African countries were not taken ‘social work’ in to a serious account as western world has viewing this profession. There has been a substantial discourse about the insignificance of educating and practicing western model of social work to resolve the social problems of developing countries (as cited in Payne, 1998).

     The indigenous thinking of social development started to question the dominance of Western social work education and its practices in non-Western countries. The profession is still trying to connect the western model of social development in to the socio-cultural, economical, historical and political landscape of other regions like Africa and Asia. Due to the huge gap between social development and economic development of many of these countries, western social work practice faces in-numerous challenges to allocate social and economic resources for the vulnerable population (Tsui & Yan, 2010). Also, the in-applicability and inappropriateness of western social work model in isolated, remote settings of developing countries raises the question of its relevance in diverse and complex societies. Apparently,  critical psycho-social assessments and targeted social work interventions in the local complex remote setting with a foreign ideology created new challenges to the profession (Gray & Fook, 2004). Liberal, Judeo-Christian and capitalist foundations of western social work education and practice not only struggles to meet the requirements of local people but also possibly not capable to build trust among people. Hence political and professional existence of professionals in the social work sector became a question in non-western countries (Tsui & Yan, 2010).

     A qualitative study conducted by Brydon (2011) found that implementation of western social work model and practice in non-western countries are arguably challenging. Brydon also cited that western social work is not a universal model of practice rather it is an indigenous model. There is little or no integration of wide range of worldviews and different discourses applicable to all regions. Western social work education primarily focusing on individual rights and client’s determination, but in most of the cases the professionals were dealing with communities where family and collective responsibility is predominantly valued than individuality (Nguyen 2005, as cited in Brydon, 2011).  

     A rethinking of “adapting, adjusting and modifying imported knowledge, theories, values, and philosophy” mainly from the Western work to fit in the local social context is unavoidable. However, an integration of imported knowledge base and cultural, social, economical, and political philosophies of the non-western communities can offer new solutions for this difficult situation (Tsui & Yan, 2010, p. 308). 
Revitalization of social work practice in these countries required a multi-dimensional approach includes local knowledge development, promotion of traditional healing models, and reinstating socio-cultural practices. 
In addition many social work professionals from most of these non-western regions were trained in western world. And the social work education in many non-Western countries are following either new or a second hand translation of Anglo-American textbooks and reference materials. It profoundly reproduce and reinforce the believes and values of a neoliberal-euro-centric-capitalist society. 
     Social work education and classrooms should create a space to incorporate the challenges of local social work practices in the context of regional social development. Moreover, a remedial approach from all levels may open some new platforms to help those regions; social work educators can raise the awareness about the roots of current social work paradigm in their country with a critical point of view. And help the new generation social workers towards the transformation of more localized social work practice. It is important to engage social work education with local practices, and teaching materials produces locally. However a successful social work intervention in non-western countries may requires an integration of western knowledge and local wisdom especially those who are practicing western social work. 
Anish Alex MSW

Brydon, K. (2011). Offering social work education in an offshore context: A case study of an Australian programme delivered in Singapore. International Social Work54(5), 681-699. Doi: 10.1177/0020872810382527

Gray, M & J. Fook. (2004). The quest for a universal social work: some issues and implications. Social Work Education. 23(5), 625-644. Doi: 10.1080/0261547042000252325

Ming-sum, T., & Miu Chung, Y. (2010, May). Developing social work in developing countries: Experiences in the Asia Pacific region. International Social Work. pp. 307-310. doi:10.1177/0020872809359746.

Pawar, M. (2010). Looking Outwards: Teaching International Social Work in Asia. Social Work Education29(8), 896-909. doi:10.1080/02615479.2010.517018

Payne, M. (1998). Why social work? Comparative perspectives on social issue and response formation. International Social Work41(4), 443-453.