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The perspectives of community-based practitioners on preventing baby removals : Addressing legitimate and illegitimate factors

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  • Keddell, Emily
  • Cleaver, Kerri
  • Fitzmaurice, Luke

Abstract

The removal of babies at or near birth is a significant health, ethical, personal and social justice issue affecting many families globally. While sometimes required, it can carry a risk of harm for babies, their families and communities, as well as refracting social inequities relating to class, gender, ethnicity, location and disability. This article reports the qualitative perceptions of community-based social workers in Aotearoa New Zealand about how to prevent baby removals. Preventing removal requires attention to the factors impacting on parenting capacity as well as factors relating to the decision-making ecology environment of child protection systems. Practitioner attributes of a whānau centred practice orientation, a focus on capability and advocacy, values of respect, and recognition of commitment to children, contributed to reducing the escalation of child protection intervention. An ability to mediate between the world of the child protection agency and the family, and recognising emotional responses were practitioner skills that also contributed to prevention. Organisational factors that helped prevent removal were the provision of flexible, intensive, holistic and accessible services; strategic service coordination between statutory and community-based services; and support offered early in the pregnancy by parenting-experienced practitioners. Family issues of poverty, drug use and intimate partner violence were exacerbated in families who were socially isolated, requiring community and social network development. In addition to these preventive factors, there were also also decision ecology factors that increased the risk of removal. These included organisational factors such as poor relationships between the statutory agency and community agencies, lack of the right types of service provision, and the tendency for reliance on recorded family histories in assessment leading to superficial and risk -averse judgements. Unrealistic expectations and changing expectations further estranged families from services and reduced the chances of avoiding removal. These perverse system factors were especially pernicious for those populations with heightened chances of system contact, particularly Māori and people living in poverty, exacerbating institutionalised racism. Implications are critically analysed with reference to the concept of legitimacy.

Suggested Citation

  • Keddell, Emily & Cleaver, Kerri & Fitzmaurice, Luke, 2021. "The perspectives of community-based practitioners on preventing baby removals : Addressing legitimate and illegitimate factors," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 127(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:cysrev:v:127:y:2021:i:c:s0190740921002024
    DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2021.106126
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Greaves, Lara M. & Lindsay Latimer, Cinnamon & Li, Eileen & Hamley, Logan, 2023. "Well-being and cultural identity for Māori: Knowledge of iwi (tribal) affiliations does not strongly relate to health and social service outcomes," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 329(C).
    2. Emily Keddell, 2022. "Mechanisms of Inequity: The Impact of Instrumental Biases in the Child Protection System," Societies, MDPI, vol. 12(3), pages 1-19, May.

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