It has been a hot theme on the blog ever since I started, forced (or non-consensual) adoptions. This article is by some people whose views I have a lot of time for- Brid Featherstone, Professor Sue White, Kate Morris, June Thoburn and Anna Gupta.
Although you can see from the sidebar on the piece that many of them have Labour connections, I don’t read this as purely a piece of party political polemic. The politicising of adoption began before our current Prime Minister (though it is accelerating) and it is a clear theme of Brid and Sue’s bloody marvellous book “Re-imagining child protection : Towards humane social work with families” http://www.amazon.co.uk/Re-imagining-child-protection-Towards-families/dp/1447308018/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1449769831&sr=8-1&keywords=brid+featherstone that many of the seeds of the current problems were sown in the early days of New Labour – a reduction of parents to a set of problems to be solved and the idea that parents role in society was simply to deliver parenting to children rather than remembering that they were also people.
This piece is well worth a read.
There is one paragraph that really struck a chord, and it is a theme that comes up over and over in our discussions here. Before I started writing the blog, it would have been really easy to dismiss all those who complained about family justice and social workers as conspiracy nuts or people who couldn’t face up to their own shortcomings and found it easier to blame a corrupt system than to accept their own part in the sad outcome. Having spent four years now listening to their stories, there’s more to it than that. There are people who have had genuinely dreadful experiences in the system, there are individual cases that have gone badly wrong. That doesn’t mean that one can assume blindly that the experience for everyone is the same and that nobody gets fair treatment, but equally we shouldn’t write off those experiences as bad luck or crackpots.
With services increasingly focused on protection rather than support, families fear rather than seek professional help when struggling in adverse social circumstances. The promotion of adoption sets up an adversarial dynamic that can seriously undermine social workers’ ability to develop trusting relationships with families needing help, as distrust and suspicion permeate the system.
I’ve spent twenty years working with social workers – sometimes on the same team, sometimes against them. I’ve seen good ones, great ones, mediocre ones, a few downright bad ones, new and terrified ones, jaded and stressed ones, ones that went the extra mile, ones that had a bad day and made a mistake, ones that pulled something amazing out of a family situation that looked hopeless, ones that were cold, ones who shouldn’t have been doing the job. I really haven’t seen ones who came into the career to make people frightened of them. We have to look at the system, if that’s the dynamic that is existing between social workers and parents – because social workers by and large come into the job to help people, that’s what they want to do. But that’s certainly not the public perception, and it isn’t the practical experience of many people who share their stories with me.
Can something be done to lessen or remove this adversarial dynamic, because it isn’t good for anyone involved. It stresses parents, it makes social workers miserable and it inhibits children from getting the improvements or help or support that might be needed.