Unpacking the relationship between poverty, social inequality and child protection policy and practice: a poverty-aware and rights-based perspective
Dr Yuval Saar-Heiman
Department of Law and Criminology
The individualised discourses associated with the neoliberal politics of ‘risk’ focus on individual deficit and responsibility and pay little attention to the social determinants of harm or the social contexts of families’ lives and thus largely ignore the complex, multifaceted causes of parental difficulties. Yet the detrimental effects of poverty on children are well documented with regard to a range of developmental dimensions and clear link has been established between children’s social deprivation, particularly as it may be reflected in their inability to live with their family of origin, and their life chances.
While poverty has long been recognised as a violation of human rights, in the context of the child protection system, it is often obscured and children’s rights are often juxtaposed with parents’ rights, with the primary focus on children’s right to protection. The tension between perceived children’s rights and perceived parents’ rights intensifies in the context of poverty. Othering of poor families is rife in risk-averse child protection systems and reinforced by extremely imbalanced power relations with practitioners with the result that parents are easily blamed and held responsible for their children’s situation.
In his presentation, Dr Saar-Heiman will argue that the parents’ rights/children’s rights binary is unhelpful and there is a need for a more complex understanding of children's rights in relation to poverty and state intervention. More specifically, he will demonstrate how the Poverty-Aware paradigm—a critical framework for social work practice—offers an alternative conceptualisation of children's rights, one that promotes solidarity with parents and calls for a relational and contextual ethical stance towards what are perceived as the best interests of the child.
Dr Yuval Saar-Heiman completed his PhD at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Spitzer Department of Social Work. His doctoral research addressed the relationship between poverty, child protection, and social work practice. Yuval is currently a Marie Sklodowska-Curie postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Social Work of Royal Holloway, University of London, where he is conducting a comprehensive study on parent advocacy programs in the UK under the supervision of Proessor Anna Gupta. His research aims to offer a comprehensive view of the development of parent advocacy programs, parents' involvement in policy design, and participatory practices with parents of children at risk of child abuse and neglect.
For further information, please contact Professor Ravinder Barn, Head of the Children and Families Research Cluster, Department of Law and Criminology.