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About this book

Comprehensive in its coverage, the text examines the core areas of childcare practice, considering the various strengths and weaknesses of both policy and practice. With an emphasis on reflective practice, this text is insightful reading for all those studying childcare from advanced undergraduate level upwards.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
The introduction sets out the tools for critical analysis used in the book and the value base underlying the work, discusses the use of evidence and outlines the book’s structure.
Tony Sayer

2. The Context of Social Work with Children

Abstract
This chapter introduces the operational context of modern work with children and families, policy agendas, the structure of the children’s social care sector and the contextual factors that impact upon both policy-making and operational decision-taking in children’s work. An important aim is to familiarise readers with the language of childcare.
Tony Sayer

3. Constructions of Childhood and Youth

Abstract
This chapter explores social constructions of social work with children and families including the children’s rights perspective as an alternative to the dominant social construction which sees children as extensions of their parents. Advocacy, listening to children and families and facilitating their participation, are used as examples of good practice. The murder of Jamie Bulger and the smacking debate illustrate the emergence of dominant social constructions around childhood and parenting. The chapter creates a theoretical and practice framework for working with young people before focusing upon gender-specific work with boys. The practice areas of underachievement by boys in the education system, working with gay youths and adolescent perpetrators are discussed.
Tony Sayer

4. Child Protection: A Social Constructionist Perspective

Abstract
This chapter describes and critically assesses the procedural model underlying childcare assessments and child protection interventions and considers how definitions of abusive behaviour reflect current dominant social constructions of childhood, family and caring. It discusses wider concepts of childhood misery, especially bullying, and the bottom line issue of child deaths. It introduces the complex areas of practice with families where there is domestic violence or where parents have drug or alcohol problems as examples of what is meant by ‘good enough parenting’, and of assessing the best interests of a child. Marxist and feminist perspectives are used to discuss how child protection systems reflect underlying power imbalances within modern society.
Tony Sayer

5. Safeguarding Children Living Away from Home

Abstract
Enquiry reports considering child abuse deaths and professional abuse have identified similar concerns about management and organisational failures. The chapter considers first similarities between the Laming Report into the death of Victoria Climbie (Laming 2003) and the Kirkwood Report into the abuse of children in Leicestershire children’s homes in the 1980s (Leicestershire County Council 1993), and then considers what makes the organisational cultures of social services agencies potentially dangerous, examining factors related to healthy cultures and whistleblowing to uncover serious concerns. Systems failure is discussed using as examples the safeguarding of those living away from home in residential care and prisons, children who run away and child asylum seekers.
Tony Sayer

6. The Looked-after Children’s System

Abstract
This chapter discusses and reviews the procedural approach to looked-after children and the Quality Protects agenda based around national standards and performance, and considers whether, in the name of efficiency, consistency and standards we have moved too far from caring and relationships. It considers what young people say about their social workers and other carers and the implications for effective practice. It questions whether managerialist interventions have deskilled social workers from effective communication with service users, and the effects of ‘professionalisation’ on service delivery.
Tony Sayer

7. Placements for Looked-after Children

Without Abstract
Tony Sayer

8. Children in Need: Making Prevention Count

Abstract
Prevention became unfashionable in the Thatcher years as effectiveness is difficult to measure in terms of performance-driven outcomes, and as financial stringency led to a retreat into statutory duties and case work. New Labour revived many aspects of preventative interventions and this chapter identifies how positive interventions which offer real assistance to those in need are preferable to blaming victims. It uses a three-stage model of preventative interventions: structural, focused and remedial. Innovations such as Sure Start, the Children’s Fund and Connexions are evaluated as examples of practice which empower individuals and communities. With more children getting sucked into ‘welfarist’ strategies which then identify them as in need of punitive interventions, the danger of undesired consequences of the targeted approach is discussed.
Tony Sayer

9. Working with Young People in the Authoritarian State

Abstract
The Labour years have seen an increasingly punitive stance towards young people: harsher sentences, ASBOs, truancy sweeps and fast-track to prosecution, even prison for the parents of truants. In the context of anti-social behaviour, youth justice and education, the chapter considers strategies to deal with young people unwilling or unable to conform to increasingly prescriptive standards of behaviour. It examines the effectiveness of current policies, the divergence between research and rhetoric, and the clash between traditional social work values, especially ‘empowerment’, and current policy implementation. It suggests alternative strategies to create a better balance between meeting the needs of ‘problematic’ young people and promoting a ‘civilised’ society. It reflects upon learning by practitioners in the 1980s using the systems approach to juvenile justice management that saw dramatic cuts in custodial sentences, and why we should now be reinventing the same wheel.
Tony Sayer

10. Child and Adolescent Mental Health: A Social Construction?

Abstract
As statistics indicate that an increasing number of children and young people suffer from mental health difficulties, the chapter explores whether these increases are real or merely reflect modern social constructions around childhood, adolescence and ‘normality’. It considers the price paid by individuals and society for a culture based on conformity and achievement, and taking ADHD as an example, whether medication is overused. In the context of children’s rights it explores civil liberties issues such as compulsory treatment. Cannabis-induced psychosis is used as an example of an area where ‘research’ needs to be viewed with caution and alternative discourses examined.
Tony Sayer

11. Conclusion: Childcare Futures

Abstract
Bringing together the theoretical perspectives from earlier chapters, the conclusion reflects upon the legacy of the twentieth century for children’s practitioners. It identifies new challenges arising in the twenty-first century, including the child health agenda. It considers the changing lives of children and parents and their relationships in an increasingly materialistic, globalised and technological world.
Tony Sayer
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