Stanley, Tony
March 2007
Social Policy Journal of New Zealand;Mar2007, Issue 30, p163
Academic Journal
The introduction of a differential response model to the New Zealand child protection system is an important social policy initiative. However, the differential response literature has yet to address the role that risk discourses play as organising and regulatory regimes in contemporary child protection work, and this paper addresses this gap. Child protection social work is strongly underpinned by discourses of risk, and this is best illustrated in the adoption of risk assessment tools that aim to assist the practices of risk assessment and its management. This paper traces the shifting and discursive functions of risk in child protection social work, and argues that Child, Youth and Family (CYF)2 social workers are negotiating a complex and increasingly pressured practice environment where difficult decisions can be legitimised through the use of risk discourses. The author's doctoral study, which considered risk discourses and statutory social work practice decisions, is drawn on to illustrate how social workers may inadvertently compromise the differential response system - a system where the discursive functions of risk are likely to remain central and regulatory. There is a danger that CYF social workers might construct their role within such a system as increasingly the assessor and manager of high risk. This paper advocates for social work training and supervision as forums where practitioners can consider and better understand these risk discourses.


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