Interview with Kathleen Kufeldt and Brad McKenzie, editors
What is the state of Child Welfare in the developed countries these days?
It is much better than it was a little over 100 years ago. At that time there were no laws for the protection of children - a little girl in New York was discovered badly abused - her parents were charged under the laws preventing cruelty to animals! However in the course of developing this book one young person in care observed to us that animals still had better protection. Judges could rule that offenders could not have other animals but children can be returned to be re-abused. We still have a long way to go.
Who comes first in child welfare - the child, the parents or the agency?
This is part of the dilemma. There are competing interests and until recently little attention has been paid to
measuring outcomes. Indeed the issue of what is a desired outcome is still rather nebulous. Agencies have tended to
Who should come first?
Undeniably the child should come first, but this does not mean that parents should be disregarded. You will find in this text that there is developing a gradual shift towards considering children’s well-being rather than the narrow issue of protection. There is a call for comprehensive assessment at the point of first contact. Rather than the current check list “risk assessment” approach there should rather be a “needs assessment.” What does this child and his or her family need to provide a safe environment? Our British contributors have moved to a “Quality Protects” initiative. Assessment in this approach looks at the child’s development, the capacity of the parents to meet the child’s developmental needs, and importantly what is the quality of the environment. We are becoming much more aware of the fact that families need to be able to live in healthy communities to raise healthy families.
Can one protect the child without destroying the family?
Yes indeed. The first line of defence - and there is eloquent coverage of this in our book - is to bring support to the families - one of our contributors calls it “expanding the frontiers” - and focusing on family wellness rather than family pathology. When a child needs to come into care then the family should continue to be involved to the degree possible. The ideal is shared care between foster family and child’s family. As we know from the situation of families split by divorce and separation, parents can continue to parent even though they may no longer live with their children. And where adoption is the preferred option we are becoming more aware of the value of open adoption.