Unheard voices: A study of parent participation in statutory child protection policy processes in Queensland

Mary Bird (2010). Unheard voices: A study of parent participation in statutory child protection policy processes in Queensland PhD Thesis, School of Social Work and Human Services, The University of Queensland.

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Author Mary Bird
Thesis Title Unheard voices: A study of parent participation in statutory child protection policy processes in Queensland
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Work and Human Services
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-04
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor professor Karen Healy
Dr Yvonne Darlington
Total pages 265
Subjects 16 Studies in Human Society
Abstract/Summary Abstract Service user involvement in service and policy development is vital in order to provide services that meet their needs. In the sensitive and challenging area of statutory child protection, where service users are often marginalized and disempowered, such involvement is likely to be contested and complex. It is, nonetheless, of great importance in order to provide effective responses to the protective needs of children and to the needs of their families, in order to ensure child safety. This qualitative study explores the participation of parents in statutory child protection policy processes in the state of Queensland, Australia. The aims of the study were to understand the Queensland statutory child protection policy context, and to explore the issue of parent participation in policy processes from a number of different perspectives. An analysis of a range of Department of Child Safety (DChS) policy related documents, from the period 1999 – 2007, was undertaken. Focus group interviews were undertaken with statutory child protection practitioners and policy officers, and with non government child and family welfare practitioners. Individual semi structured interviews were undertaken with a number of parents who are statutory child protection service users. What has emerged is a picture of a service system where parents are likely to be excluded at all levels of decision making. The study found that following inquiries into the failure of the service system, in particular the Crime and Misconduct Commission Inquiry (CMC), DChS has emerged as an individualistic child focused service system with a focus on forensic investigation, risk assessment and management, and with a corresponding loss of focus on family support. The findings indicate that how DChS has redefined its approach to child protection impacts significantly on how parents are engaged by the service system. They highlight inequities in the way service user participation rights have been incorporated into policy and enacted in practice, and the lack of recognition afforded parents as service users and stakeholders in the service system. The findings also suggest that DChS policy processes are focused more on progressing reform agendas and efficient service delivery than they are on service user involvement. Negative portrayals and perceptions of parents, and a perceived lack of understanding of the nexus between disadvantage and child welfare, were also found to contribute to their exclusion. The parent interviews provided valuable insights into their experiences of the service system, indicating the sorts of issues they are likely to bring to the policy table. However, the findings illustrate that they lack the necessary information, support and encouragement to participate, and their experiences of the service system have left them mistrustful of engaging in policy processes, should the opportunity arise. Overall, the findings show that while there is likely to be a number of benefits to parent participation in policy processes, and parents themselves have an interest in participating, there are many barriers to this. While a few potential strategies to engage parents in policy processes were identified, these were often also perceived to have limitations. It is considered that a comprehensive socio-structural approach would be needed in order to reposition parents as participators in policy and service development.
Keyword Statutory child protection, policy, parents, service users,

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Created: Thu, 05 Aug 2010, 09:23:04 EST by Ms Mary Bird on behalf of Library - Information Access Service