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About this book

It has been widely noted in the social work literature that the practice of child protection is highly gendered. When it comes to child abuse, women come under more scrutiny and men, who are more likely to present a risk of harm to children, are not engaged with. This important text takes stock of this controversial topic, examining the state of policy and theory on the subject and exploring the organisational culture and the professional knowledge and values that influence contemporary social work in the field of child welfare. Skilfully combining theory with illustrative example, it concludes by focusing on the lessons for practice.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Abstract
I find the men, er, a lot of macho about the men — the men are arrogant, very opinionated. … I don’t deal with the men in a lot of cases, mainly with the wives, but that’s often the case in any area, as men are less susceptible to social work. (a social worker quoted in Pithouse, 1998: 134)
Jonathan Scourfield, Jo Campling

2. Child protection, gender and social work

Abstract
The aim of this chapter is to prepare the ground for the rest of the book by outlining the policy context and the theoretical perspectives that are drawn upon in what follows. The first section of the chapter briefly explains how the social control of the family has developed, with reference to the work of Foucault and Donzelot. The next section then deals with the policy context of contemporary child protection practice, including an overview of the commentary in the social work literature on gender issues in child protection. The rest of the chapter then sets out the book’s central theoretical assumptions, through discussion of gender relations, social constructionism and occupational culture. I begin by locating child protection work in its historical and sociological context.
Jonathan Scourfield, Jo Campling

3. Who are the clients?

Abstract
This chapter introduces two main questions: who are the clients in child protection work, and what is the nature of the social worker—client relationship? It is especially concerned with the way that the potential client population is divided according to criteria other than gender. In that sense, it serves as an essential introduction to the substantive discussions on working with men and women clients that follow in Chapters 4 and 5. It will outline the context of gendered clienthood in child protection work.
Jonathan Scourfield, Jo Campling

4. Working with women

Abstract
This chapter begins to explore the process of gender construction in the social work office, by focusing on working with women. Chapter 5 addresses working with men. There are many dimensions of gender construction in occupational culture that could be explored, including ethnomethodological study of talk about men and women, and detailed analysis of how accounts of clients are constructed for particular audiences. In this chapter I present an overview of social workers’ expressed opinions about women in collegial talk, research interviews and case records. At the end of the chapter I identify some defining discourses of femininity.
Jonathan Scourfield, Jo Campling

5. Working with men

Abstract
The discussion of working with men clients in this chapter is structured as follows. I introduce the topic by summarising how the ‘problem of men’ has come to be a matter for social policy development in the UK. I then explain my use of the term ‘discourses’ of masculinity, and the rest of the chapter is taken up with a description of six different discourses of masculinity in the social work office. Some conclusions will be drawn. I then summarise the implications of the research findings for social work practice.
Jonathan Scourfield, Jo Campling

6. Child protection priorities

Abstract
The scope of child protection work is potentially huge. The manifestations of child maltreatment range from inappropriate diet through to rape. There has to be a paring down of this mass of allegations and cases competing for attention. The choice of child protection priorities is what preoccupies this chapter. The discussion centres on the gendered nature of this choice and its gendered implications. The most meaningful way to discuss the gendered nature of child protection priorities is with reference to an actual example of prioritising which had major implications for increased scrutiny of mothering. This is the ‘new’ interest in child neglect in the local authority where I carried out my research. This chapter proceeds, then, with a focus on a specific categorisation of child maltreatment, that of ‘neglect’, but this focus is designed to illustrate much broader issues about the implications of child protection policy for gender inequality.
Jonathan Scourfield, Jo Campling

7. Knowledge and values in practice

Abstract
The aim of this book has been to unpack and examine the occupational culture of child protection work. Chapter 3 set out the context of the construction of clienthood. Chapters 4 and 5 gave overviews of the discourses of masculinity and femininity in the social workers’ case talk, recording and report writing. Chapter 6 focused on the gendered construction of child protection priorities. This chapter goes on to address how social workers draw on professional knowledge, ethics and values, and the implications of how they do this for work with men and women. Reference has already been made to social work knowledge, ethics and values in each of the previous chapters. This chapter tackles the topic in a more sustained fashion, having as its central question: On the basis of what knowledge, ethics and values do social workers construct gender?
Jonathan Scourfield, Jo Campling

8. Understanding gendered practice

Abstract
This chapter aims to discuss why child protection practice is gendered in the way it is. Parton and O’Byrne (2000) make the useful distinction between theory of practice and theory for practice. The concern of this chapter is theory of practice. The next chapter will consider theory for practice as well as summarising the lessons of the book.
Jonathan Scourfield, Jo Campling

9. Conclusion

Abstract
This final chapter has two main themes: the current state of child protection work and an overview of implications for social work practice. The first section of the chapter deals with questions such as ‘what is child protection practice like these days?’ and ‘how do staff and clients experience the child protection process?’ The second section considers the implications of the book’s material in two respects: theory for practice and practical implications. I preface these discussions by summarising the previous research-based chapters.
Jonathan Scourfield, Jo Campling
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