Child Abuse Revisited: Children, Society, and Social Work

Child Abuse Revisited: Children, Society, and Social Work

Child Abuse Revisited: Children, Society, and Social Work

Child Abuse Revisited: Children, Society, and Social Work


Child abuse work has attracted an enormous amount of bad publicity in recent years which has increasingly brought serious disadvantages not only to the children and families involved, but also to social and other workers in the field. Social workers have been manoeuvred into a narrower form of state intervention that may be counter-productive at times, leaving them widely criticized and demoralized and thus less able to help children.

This text presents a major and possible controversial re-assessment of child abuse work in Britain since the early 1970s. It draws on evidence from a wide range of areas: recent social and political history, changes in child care law, the theory base for much child abuse work, the professional development of social work and the national pressure group PAIN (Parents Against Injustice). These areas are explored before moving on to a proposed alternative approach to child abuse work where prevention and support are given priority over 'panic and rescue'. The legal, political and professional implications of this alternative approach are considered in detail, making the book a valuable resource for a wide range of students and professionals interested in child abuse and child care law.


On my office wall is a cartoon showing a man standing separate from a group of others at a party. Their comment about him is: 'He hasn't written a book about child abuse.' Perhaps there may be something to be said for not being one of the crowd in this matter. Yet child abuse is too important not to be writing about.

This book will, I hope, find a place somewhere in the lists because it has a very distinctive perspective. It does not claim to be one of those essential reviews of evidence and research works that we need from time to time although it is as generously referenced as I can manage; nor is it a book that deals much with specific treatment of abused children or individuals who maltreat them, for others are much better qualified than I to write about such things.

What it does offer are perspectives for looking at the way we have defined child abuse and at the patterns in our response to it. Abuse comes in many forms and we need to understand how we select our priorities for action. If not, and this is the passionately held theme of the book, there is a real danger of a loss of objectivity and that is not good for children. In this matter the work is as important as the source of abuse. Hence social work figures prominently throughout because it says so much about the attitude of the state and society to children and even childhood itself. If there are any 'answers' to child abuse then they are to be found in the wide view, through binoculars rather than through microscopes.

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