Strengths-based Practice in Statutory
Care and Protection Work
Care and Protection is far too important not to be strengths-based.
(Andrew Turnell, Keynote Address, Gathering Momentum conference,
New Zealand 2003)
This chapter explores the application of a strengths-based approach in statutory child protection, drawing on examples from the experiences of front-line staff in Child Youth and Family Services, the statutory child protection agency in New Zealand. Strengths approaches to practice1 have been adopted as the intentional practice approach in Child Youth and Family Services (Department of Child Youth and Family Services 2001, p.5), which established a practice development initiative in 2000 to explore the implications of and develop practice for this approach.
Strengths-based practice in the statutory setting is not an invitation to deny knowledge about risks and dangerous dynamics in child protection work or to minimize or collude with abuse, violence, neglect, offending or any other factors which are harming, or have the potential to harm, children, young people, and their families and whanau (whanau is the Maori term for extended family). Rather, it is a principled and transparent approach to statutory social work, based on legal and ethical principles. The social worker works intensively to engage the family/whanau in a partnership for change, while being very open with them about his/her role and obligations and about legal and safety requirements.
My objectives in this chapter are first to demonstrate that strengths-based practice is a robust challenging approach that is able to guide practice in statutory child protection (and improve the service delivery experience for the