better off without ’em?

Before I make this post let me say that what I report here is in my experience unrepresentative of social work standards in general. Most social workers maintain professionalism, objectivity and open-mindedness.

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I was mortified to hear a social worker involved in a case I was dealing with recently joke about how the children in the case might be better off if they didn’t have parents. Luckily my client (dad) was not at court to overhear such a crass throwaway remark, which was made in the course of a friendly chat between a cluster of those involved in the case who were waiting for others to join in a more formal discussion, and was I’m sure intended to refer to the fact that the professionals had made repeated attempts to accommodate the parents requests for contact and yet the parents had often failed to attend. There are two main reasons why this remark was unacceptable (apart from it being plain unprofessional and discourteous): in the first instance it is generally accepted that for most children even flawed parents are better than none at all, and that in all but the most serious of abuse cases a relationship with his parents is one which should be maintained, albeit sometimes in a heavily managed or restricted way. It is almost never true that a child would be better off without his parents, even if he cannot live with them (even children who are adopted are increasingly maintaining some relationship with their birth parents). It is concerning that any social worker should forget that even for a moment – it is a symptom of snowblindness, becoming so overwhelmed with difficult or troubled parents that it becomes easier to simply assume that this parent is much like the last, and to discount all hope of rehabilitating children to their natural families because its a waste of time – a social worker who makes this joke has stopped trying. Secondly, in the rare case where it is true that all contact between parent and child should permanently cease it is because things have gone so seriously wrong that that child has very probably been permanently damaged and will certainly feel the consequences throughout his whole life – how can someone tasked with the welfare of these very vulnerable children possibly think that it’s ok to joke about that?

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Tell me I’m overreacting if you like, but imagine how you’d feel if you were a parent who overheard the social worker make this remark (very little in a magistrates court is private or soundproofed). Would you be able to trust that they were able to properly put the welfare of your child and his need for a relationship with his mum and dad before their own jaded prejudices?

One thought on “better off without ’em?

  1. As a child welfare social worker, I must say that you are absolutely correct that the worker’s comments were inappropriate. No matter how terrible a child’s biological parents are, they want to have their family in their lives. And eventually as the child matures, they will come to have their own opinion about their parents, good, bad, or indifferent. As a real social worker, who abides by The Code of Ethics, we should never express our feelings about a situation to anyone especially in the courthouse where nothing is confidential.
    Save it for your private journal at home!

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