Dangers, risks and blaming : the discourses and narratives of child protection coordinators
This thesis addressesth e impact of the child abusei nquiries of the mid-late 1980so n policy and practice in the field of childcare. Challenging social workers' claims for expertise in this area of work, these inquiries created a significant legitimation crisis for the profession, fracturing prior commitments and modes of knowledge and informing an increasingly bureaucratised approach to the protection of children. Located at the centre of such developments, the role of child protection coordinator carried a complex agenda, with rationally framed role responsibilities being throughout infused by the intense anxieties surrounding this area of work. Thus, drawing on interviews with 14 coordinators, together with contemporary documentary and academic materials, this thesis provides a detailed analysis of post-inquiry child protection policies and practices. Firstly, referring to sociological theories of risk, the contradictory recommendations of the Beckford and Cleveland reports are located in the discursive split between `determinate' and `reflexive' approaches to knowledge. Secondly, psychoanalytical concepts are used to analyse the complex emotional climate provoked by these inquiries and the, ultimately regressive, professional retreat into a somewhat victimised stance. Thirdly, analysis of the coordinators' accounts reveals the inter-penetration of these discursive and emotional trajectories across both social services and interagency contexts. Whilst confirming the dominance of defensively driven practices, this analysis also identifies the persistence of other, more reflectively framed, developments. Fourthly, the extreme, and contrasting, patterns of career identity evidenced in the coordinators' texts are perceived as reflecting the internalisation of variant discursive and emotional themes, whilst also exposing an unthinkable core at the heart of this work. Finally, extending the analysis to other contemporary sources, the conclusion addressesth e associativel ink betweent heseu nthinkable anxieties and the failure of expertise, with the recommendations stemming from this research addressing the necessary interpretative underpinning to any possibility of change.