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Towards an ideal of gender equity? Simon Lapierre, Ph.D. School of Social Work McGill University, Montreal Child protection.

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Presentation on theme: "Towards an ideal of gender equity? Simon Lapierre, Ph.D. School of Social Work McGill University, Montreal Child protection."— Presentation transcript:

1 Towards an ideal of gender equity? Simon Lapierre, Ph.D. School of Social Work McGill University, Montreal Child protection practices in cases involving domestic violence

2 The study Awareness and principles Translating principles into practice Conclusion

3 The study

4 A qualitative study exploring the relationship between domestic violence and child neglect in child protection policies and practices (UK and Canada) One Local Authority in England Focus groups (4) Individual interviews (22) 45 participants  32 front-line workers  7 managers  3 independent reviewing officers

5 Awareness and principles

6 Concerns regarding children living with domestic violence Harm or risk of harm to children  Physical ‘In domestic violence, you’ll always get physical, because the child is always at risk of getting physical harm if they get caught in the cross-fire. So there is your evidence.’ (front-line worker 1)

7 Concerns regarding children living with domestic violence Harm or risk of harm to children  Physical  Emotional ‘I think the more long-term risk is the emotional damage of children witnessing domestic violence over a long period of time; maybe never getting hurt … but the emotional impact on children is more long term.’ (independent reviewing officer 1)

8 Concerns regarding children living with domestic violence Harm or risk of harm to children Impacts on parenting ‘It’s got to have an impact on their parenting. If you are a violent person, you are more likely to hit your child … The impact on the parent that is the victims will have an impact on their self-esteem and their sense of worth and who they are.’ (independent reviewing officer 1)

9 Concerns regarding children living with domestic violence Harm or risk of harm to children Impacts on parenting A case of neglect ? ‘I don’t think it affects the basic things, as in cooking the dinners and that type of things. I think it’s more an emotional effect it has.’ (front-line worker 11)

10 Concerns regarding children living with domestic violence Harm or risk of harm to children Impacts on parenting A case of neglect ? ‘We find that in this local authority it’s very very difficult to get neglect; very difficult. You need a lot more pointers of evidence to get neglect.’ (front-line worker 1)

11 Concerns regarding children living with domestic violence Harm or risk of harm to children Impacts on parenting A case of neglect ? ‘It could lead to some concerns about victim- blaming.’ (manager 1)

12 Principles for practice Child-centred interventions Work with women ‘Obviously the children are clients and so are our focal point, but running parallel to that is the safety of the parents who are the injured parties or the victimised parties, which in most cases obviously is the mother. So trying to ensure that not only are the children safe, but that she can keep the children safe and also keep herself safe; it’s something that runs in parallel in the planning.’ (independent reviewing officer 2)

13 Principles for practice Child-centred interventions Work with women  Attitude ‘Just being very mindful of how the mum her health and self-esteem and everything; if she is a victim of domestic violence she has probably got a very low self-esteem, poor opinion of herself anyway, all of those types of things. So we have to be very very careful in how we go as a social worker and how we respond to it, and how we speak to people; the whole attitude really.’ (front-line worker 3)

14 Principles for practice Child-centred interventions Work with women  Attitude  Strength-based approach / empowerment ‘I think it’s about looking at different ways of building on women’s strengths, and to manage for them to grow as a person. Because sometimes I think you have to take the focus away from the parenting.’ (front-line worker 6)

15 Principles for practice Child-centred interventions Work with women  Attitude  Strength-based approach / empowerment ‘You’re wanting to empower the woman, because you know that if you empower the woman you empower her to care for her children.’ (front- line worker 12)

16 Principles for practice Child-centred interventions Work with women  Attitude  Strength-based approach / empowerment  Shared responsibility ‘It’s not about blaming the mother all the time; yes, she has a responsibility to her children, but equally so has that man.’ (front-line worker 8)

17 Principles for practice Child-centred interventions Work with women Work with men ‘We would always encourage trying to work with them. Oh yes, always.’ (front-line worker 1)

18 Translating principles into practice

19 Working with cases of domestic violence Complex situations Not straightforward and often long-term process Limited time and resources Frustration, powerlessness

20 Applying principles Support The focus is shifted away from men’s violence onto women’s mothering Increased surveillance Removal, adoption Women who prioritise their children ‘Good’ mothers who face difficulties dues to domestic violence Women who do not prioritise their children ‘Neglectful’ mothers

21 Willingness to engage with children’s services Acknowledgement that domestic violence affects children Willingness and ability to end the relationship Willingness and ability to address any other ‘personal’ problems Women who prioritise their children ‘Good’ mothers who face difficulties dues to domestic violence Women who do not prioritise their children ‘Neglectful’ mothers

22 Willingness to engage with children’s services Willingness to work with children’s services ‘I think parents need to show, from the offset, that they are willing to change and that they are committed to engaging with services. And I think if they don’t do that, and they continue to do that for sort of two or three months, then we need to start at looking at making longer-term plans.’ (front-line worker 10)

23 Willingness to engage with children’s services Willingness to work with children’s services ‘Mum was very reluctant to work with services, that’s what made it go to conference this time.’ (front-line worker 11)

24 Willingness to engage with children’s services Willingness to work with children’s services Compliance ‘The key to it was the compliance by both parties, and I think that’s one of the key issues.’ (independent reviewing officer 2)

25 Willingness to engage with children’s services Willingness to work with children’s services Compliance Being open and honest ‘The problem with this woman is that she persistently lies all the time … That’s very difficult to work with somebody that is not even being honest with you.’ (front-line worker 3)

26 Acknowledgement that domestic violence affects children ‘I think the biggest difficulty has been getting the mum to understand the effects of the domestic abuse and her lifestyle on the child … We’ve done lots and lots of work with her and she did made a lot of progress in a lot of areas, but the main thing that was still there was the fact hat she just couldn’t see how the child was affected by the abuse.’ (front- line worker 10)

27 Willingness and ability to end the relationship ‘But obviously from our point of view, if mum is the main carer, we give them the choice. If there is violence, we say to mum you need to leave that relationship. So we would always give her the choice, you leave that relationship, work with us.’ (front-line worker 1)

28 Willingness and ability to end the relationship ‘They resumed their marital relationship. So for me the mother has very clearly chosen the partner over the children.’ (independent reviewing officer 3) ‘In this case mum prioritised the children and said no, I’m not having anymore of it.’ (independent reviewing officer 1)

29 Willingness and ability to address any other ‘personal’ problems Factors predisposing women to experience domestic violence ‘This one actually is engaging in domestic violence counselling. I tried to talk to her about again that she is quite vulnerable at attracting this sort of men in the future.’ (front-line worker 6)

30 Willingness and ability to address any other ‘personal’ problems Factors predisposing women to experience domestic violence ‘I don’t think she would have been actually able to move on, because of how she was as a person and how she had been brought up. I just don’ think she could actually move on from that.’ (front-line worker 10)

31 Willingness and ability to address any other ‘personal’ problems Factors predisposing women to experience domestic violence Other ‘personal’ difficulties

32 Applying principles Support The focus is shifted away from men’s violence onto women’s mothering Increased surveillance Removal, adoption Women who prioritise their children ‘Good’ mothers who face difficulties dues to domestic violence Women who do not prioritise their children ‘Neglectful’ mothers

33 Conclusion

34 Principles for good practices in cases involving domestic violence No such thing as ‘pure’ domestic violence cases Limited resources The use of neglect focuses on women and justifies the non-application of the principles  The difficulties are taken out of their context  These women are neither ‘good’ mothers nor ‘good’ victims


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