Care and protection — Knowledge & practice
The child-centred perspective is all about focusing on a child’s needs and best interests, their safety, care, support and wellbeing. It’s about understanding, at a deeper level, what influences a child’s behaviour – how they attach to caring adults in their lives and what impacts on their ability to grow and develop into strong adults.
Having a child-centred perspective requires that we become familiar with research that helps us to understand children and their needs so that we can work in their best interests. Being child-centred is also about supporting and maintaining their rights. Central to this is the work of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) and the underlying theme of children’s entitlement to special care, and the right to provision, protection and participation.
Supporting child-centred practice
Key messages from the research
- Children and young people are entitled to ‘special care and assistance’ and have the right to provision, protection and participation (OCC, 2005)
- The welfare and interests of the child/young person is paramount (CYPF Act)
- Children and young people have a right to preserve their own identity, to enjoy their own culture, religion and language (MSD, 2002)
- Children and young people have the capacity to participate in decisions that affect them and the right to be listened to (Littlechild, 2000; SOI, 2005)
- Stability of care and attachment is critical to child wellbeing (Smith, 1996; Cassidy & Shaver, 1999 Bacon & Richardson, 2001).
Family-led and culturally responsive perspective
The family led and culturally responsive perspective reinforces the need to work with family cultures and to support them in their primary role of carers and protectors of their children. The driving principle of family empowerment rests at the heart of the framework and guides practice toward greater family-responsiveness. This strongly supports key practice principles within the Oranga Tamariki Act (1989).
The need to strengthen families is recognised and also the need to foster practice partnerships, including processes that involve the broader family in processes of decision making for their children. Being family-led and culturally responsive also requires that we are familiar with the research relating to family engagement and the ways in which families can be supported to care for their children. Supporting the cultural context of the family and working with social networks is also central to this strand of the practice framework.
Supporting family-led and culturally responsive practice
Key messages from the research
- Collective responsibility for children and young people, and the centrality of family (MSD, 2002)
- Family should be strengthened and should participate in decision-making, and be responded to as practice partners (Puao-te-Ata-tu, 1986; CYPF Act, 1989)
- Families develop rich and diverse plans to support the child when given the opportunity (Thoennes, 2003)
- All families, children and young people will be safe and have opportunity to flourish in their communities (Te Pounamu, 2001)
- Families do respond positively when invited to take the lead (Burford, 2005; Titcomb & LeCroy, 2003)
- Building alliances with communities will strengthen good outcomes (Pacific Responsiveness Plan, 2002)
- Diverse families require culturally responsive solutions and reflexive social work practices (Puao-te-Ata-tu, 1986; Connolly, Crichton-Hill & Ward, 2005)
Strengths and evidence-based perspective
At the same time as emphasising centrality of the child and being responsive to their unique family and cultural environment there is a need for practice to have a strong knowledge base and to be informed by evidence. It highlights the importance of working in a strengths based approach and maximising the opportunity to learn from research.
Building practice on a solid foundation of research evidence about what works in child welfare is key to getting good outcomes for children and young people. We work on the basis that no one perspective is enough when working with children, young people and their families. It is the weaving together of the perspectives through the phases of our work that makes our practice strong.
Supporting strengths and evidence-based practice
- What works' models
- Resilience discourses
- Empowerment practices
- Systems theory.
Key messages from the research
- People do ‘rebound’ from serious trouble and adversity; people grow and develop through dialogue and collaboration (Saleebey, 1992)
- “Safety is strengths demonstrated as protection over time” (McPherson & Macnamara, cited in Turnell, 2004)
- Participation in decision-making is a practice demonstration of empowerment (Connolly, 1999)
- Practice works in the context of role clarity, the reinforcement of pro-social values, collaborative problem-solving, and good relationship work and the helping alliance (Trotter, 1999; 2002; McKeown, 2000)
- Family violence and its dynamics impact on children and their development, and therefore the connections with child care and protection need to be understood (Jasinski & Williams; 1998)
- Coordinated systemic responses are needed to address multiple need (Walton, 2001) and coordinated service responses provide more effective interventions (Bell, 1999; McIntosh, 2000)
- Good outcomes are achieved through positive parenting, stable family life, strong family and kin networks, community involvement and supportive social networks (Connolly, 2004).
Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) (2008). Code of Ethics. Dunedin: ANZASW (Inc).
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