“All efforts at self-transformation challenge us to engage in on-going, critical self-examination and reflection about practice, and about how we live in the world. This individual commitment, when coupled with engagement in collective discussion, provides a space for critical feedback which strengthens our efforts to change and make ourselves anew.”
— bell hooks
'Critical reflection from the position of academics and educators may be viewed differently from the position of child protection field workers. What looks ‘possible’ and ‘positive’ from an academic perspective may feel considerably different for those who are ‘in the trenches’. Critical reflection leads to ...view middle of the document...
Sadly many professionals, who work within statutory child protection, identify their work environment as hostile, and unfriendly to critical reflection. Those professionals who acknowledge these challenges are frequently deemed ‘pessimistic’, ‘obstructive’ and ‘negative’, when their lived experiences would be better used to fuel further critical reflection about systemic barriers.
In the words of Jan Fook and Fiona Gardener, critical reflection ‘exposes choices and supports a sense of agency’. Could it be because child protection workers do undertake critical reflection, that the field has seen a mass exodus of well-educated and trained professionals from the sector? Retention difficulties have become notorious in tertiary child protection, but are now mirrored in community services as they too become increasingly risk aversive and proscriptive.
It is not enough to be critically aware, without some means to resolve arising tensions. Encouraging critical reflection in hostile environments may well lead to feelings of frustration, anger, exhaustion, depression and burnout. Undertaking critical reflection in isolation does not mitigate these risks or subsequent feelings. Ultimately those who critically reflect are likely to leave the child protection playing field altogether or find themselves becoming unconscious and ‘reflection resistant’ in an effort to manage the unmanageable tension of compromising personal and professional ethics in the course of routine employment.
Critical learning is missing. The professional exodus of social workers from child protection should be interpreted as a red flag. Child protection work has become untenable; that is, it has become incredibly difficult to practice in an ethical, anti-oppressive...