Critical debates in child protection

The production of risk in changing times

Authored by: Emily Keddell , Tony Stanley

The Routledge Handbook of Critical Social Work

Print publication date:  January  2019
Online publication date:  January  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138578432
eBook ISBN: 9781351264402
Adobe ISBN:


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Many of the current debates in child protection social work should be described as ‘critical’, given that this field contains many examples of structural inequalities, power imbalances, contested discourses and knowledge bases, the personalization of social problems, ethical issues, and fierce political-ideological conflicts. Critical theories offer ways to analyze key debates in this field of practice. They help render the social context visible thus countering the dominance of individualistic and totalizing assumptions of what Fraser calls ‘psychologization’, and Garrett (2010) describes as the “the transfer, or displacement, of what are fundamentally social and economic issues and problems to a solely psychological domain” (Garrett, 2010: 1517; Fraser, 1998). Critical social work has a strong emphasis on emancipatory or anti-oppressive ideals that seek to promote justice: in the child protection domain this is particularly complex as parents and children’s rights and outcomes can diverge. Justice for one might mean oppression for another.

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