Sunday, January 24, 2010
Many men will attest to have seen a bias by CAS Protective Workers who are, it would appear, 95% female and some stridently feminist in their ideology. I can certainly speak to it, and can also say the local Algoma CAS and its sister organization Algoma Family Services, who deal with child mental health issues, have both shown me they care little about fathers. In one case a worker completely ignored my requests for help on the telephone and declared a conflict of interest so she could get out of providing service to me. I went over her head and finally got a supervisor to do her job.MJM
By Susan Longley
Please note concerns regarding upcoming Ontario conference. (see OACAS web site).
A frightening trend in North American child welfare practice is the growing alliance between child welfare services and those promoting anti violence against women (i.e. VAW sector).
This alliance has resulted in an increased denigration of male parents and general deterioration in efforts to address the best interests of children. The deeply rooted gender biased ideology of the latter sector remains deeply troubling and in complete contradiction to male parents attempts to engage with child welfare services involved with their children. This concern needs to be urgently addressed, partly to maintain service integrity but also to maintain an ethical stance towards families in general.
Male parents are frequently already marginalized from participating in services for their children. There is now an increased propensity to isolate men even more so from their children’s lives. There remains a blatant contradiction between child welfare services who adopt the polemic and platitudes of the VAW sector. The child welfare mandate remains to enhance family life VAW sector is completely contradictory and opposed to such values.
It has become recently popular for child welfare services and VAW services to adopt certain kinds of inter agency protocols. These protocols are an embarrassment to child welfare practice in Canada. Blatantly unprofessional and academically dishonest theses protocols reflect misandric nonsense rather than legitimate protocol. These so called protocols must be abandoned and exposed for what they are. There are least two CASs in the Toronto region (see Peel CAS protocol with VAW sector)) have adopted such protocols. These agencies are allegedly family service agencies with no endorsement to promote such anti male rhetoric.
A review of these protocols disclose an incredulous gender bias which can only be described as sexism of the worst order. These professionally distasteful protocols are written in total sympathy with VAW expectations with no accountability to the general public or their respective agency mandates. They contradict not only good social work practice but remain contradictory to ethical guidelines established by their governing body OASW.
These so-called protocols allege to address issues related to inter agency service provision and cooperation between public agencies but are in fact nothing more than an ideological treatise intended to alienate men further from appropriate child welfare practice.
These protocols refuse to acknowledges domestic violence in families other than that of men against women. Women remain the perpetual victim and men always the perpetrator. Any mention of domestic violence refuses to acknowledge women ‘s violence against men. Programmes sponsored by child welfare services for children exposed to domestic violence ultimately define the perpetrator as male.
These protocols never hold women accountable for any acts of child abuse or inter personal violence. The identification of child abuse only mentioned in regard to men. Any child welfare programmes delivered to “children exposed to family violence” refer to men only. Women are never identified as initiators of any domestic violence even when a so-called family agency is involved.
The suggestion that women may make false complaints regarding domestic violence in order to gain an upper hand on custody and access matters is not acknowledged. That women may fabricate or even lie is considered anathema. The fact that women account for the majority of child abuse in not even mentioned. That VAW services and child welfare services advocate becoming increasingly involved in controversial custody and access matters remains extremely repugnant. The suggestion that child welfare services become more intrusive regarding access arrangements between children and their fathers is an outright abomination.
Please find a copy of a recent letter sent to Jeanette Lewis, Director of the provincial OACAS (see web site) outlining my concerns regarding an anticipated conference involving Provincial Child Welfare Services and Violence Against Women Services. The purported agenda is to build understanding and cooperation between the two sectors. My cynical view, as previously suggested, indicates an alternate agenda. The VAW sector is given a further opportunity to impose a particular ideological gender politic on child welfare services.
“I notice with trepidation an anticipated 2010 Toronto conference co sponsored by Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies , The Ontario Women’s Directorate and various Violence Against Women programmes. The theme of the conference being the “Intersection of Women Abuse and Child Welfare Services.”
I was immediately troubled by the tone and wording of the conference details included in the call for papers especially given the propensity for child welfare services in Ontario and in general North America, to adopt a value preference embracing the practice of a certain feminist political and ideological agenda. A social work practice that has increasingly marginalized services to men and boys and a priori assumptions regarding male perpetrators and female victims.
I have outlined a few of my concerns.
As many researchers have pointed out gender feminist theory has its limitations and family service agencies in particular must always be ethically accountable in providing services to both men and women especially where “best interests” of children are involved. One can already anticipate the usual presenters invited to provide discourse at such matters. It would be extremely naive to expect genuine debate or rational presentation between the sectors involved. I will assume the usual feminist rhetoric and platitudes will rule the day.
Some academic integrity needs to be maintained and that the conference must reject any ideological and gender biased, misandric unbalanced research which has tended to place a certain anti male spin on issues related to woman abuse, child custody and other such politically charged issues.
There has been a long term feminist advocacy in this province (highlighted in proposals of the provincial domestic violence death review panel and its recommendations ) to have child welfare services acquiesce to the values and political ideology of the violence against women sector.
This is viewed by many as a regressive and extremely ill advised road to go down. It is appears regressive for child welfare services in general, especially since their services have already become suspect for aligning themselves with principles that reject a family orientation and men in particular. Any child welfare services must be dispensed with fairness and remain gender neutral in practice.
I am concerned that any dialogue between CAS and VAW sectors becomes a mere “smoke screen” for advocating CAS become more feminized in their social work practice at the expense of academic and social work integrity. Not that the two sectors cannot collaborate on occasion and cooperate when appropriate in providing in shared client advocacy.
It seems vital and important to acknowledge the value differences between the two sectors and reject the propensity to gloss over the obvious political and ideological conflicts. It is imperative that these conflicts be clearly acknowledged and identified. This remains especially so in reference to mutual protocols regarding advocacy and support of woman’s issues especially those issues related to custody access and the interaction between service providers regarding male clients and families in general . It appears to me that the mandates of the two sectors are severely different and are grounded in often opposed ideological principals. Just a few issues regarding the two sectors come to mind.
Definitions of Abuse and Victimization:
More stringent definition of abuse and victimization in general are required by both sectors. The CAS social workers remain accountable not only to the clients, the best interest of the child but also the court system especially when wards of the court are involved. What is considered abuse in the VAW sector cannot always be validated in the CAS sector.
CAS are obliged to involve male fathers and partners regardless if they have been identified as so called perpetrators or offenders.
The feminist principle of “validating” the “stories” of violence against women and children has always been troublesome for social workers in the CAS sector. Not to deny supportive advocacy for all clients (a basic social work value) CAS social workers have always had to depend on not only “clients narratives” but also collaboration efforts to seek alternate sources of information. The VAW sector do not require such gender neutral language of exploration and context for service. It appears that a higher standard of accountability and transparency is required.
Gender Bias / Male Clients and Partners:
Gender biased practice has been generally the order of the day. Given the long history of feminist advocacy many would argue that CAS have acquiesced far to willingly to certain feminist theory at the expense of gender neutral practice. This must be recognised and the matter dealt with in an honest and forthright manner. Children’s best interest require addressing issues with both parents where possible.
CAS social workers when in court regarding children’s interests must prove that they have attempted involved both parents (and even other partners as defined as parents ) Fathers and or partners in a parenting role can never be ignored in CAS social work. The issues regarding custody and access assessments during divorce remains a highly contentious one, as do the issues related to counselling of couples where violence has occurred. Protocols regarding children’s access to both parents where domestic violence is disputed also remains highly contentious. These issues must be debated within the reality of both male and female experience.
Academic Research and Domestic Violence Findings:
The academic literature regarding domestic violence has and continues to be long dominated by a certain type of feminist ideology and both the CAS and VAW sectors have been very much influenced in their practice by certain political views. This must change. The literature is much more divergent in findings and recommendations for practice than previously acknowledged. This is particularly so when discussing woman abuse and domestic violence. The divergent literature has always been available but to many practitioners who accepted certain dissident views were quickly rejected ostracized or threatened.
A modest appeal to Richard Gelles article January 2007 Family Court Review sums up these concerns regarding academic integrity with succinct clarity. Need I mention Don Dutton’s “Rethinking Domestic Violence.”
These are some of my concerns regarding the two sectors having authentic dialogue. This can only be achieved with honesty and respect. Some would also claim an appeal to rational discourse mixed with a modicum of intellectual integrity can also help.