Session: Child Welfare and Social Work Education: From a Pedagogy of Oppression to a Pedagogy of Resistance (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

69 Child Welfare and Social Work Education: From a Pedagogy of Oppression to a Pedagogy of Resistance

Friday, January 14, 2022: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Marquis BR Salon 8, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
Cluster: Child Welfare
Erin Sugrue, PhD, Augsburg University, Sandra Leotti, PhD, University of Wyoming and Miriam Itzkowitz, MSW, William Mitchell College of Law
The social work profession’s long involvement in the child welfare system is fraught with contradictions, ethical tensions, and a legacy of historical trauma and deep mistrust in Black and Native American communities. Challenging this legacy requires an honest look at how schools of social work participate in policies and practices that work to uphold racialized surveillance and forcible family separation. This roundtable invites attendees into a critical conversation regarding social work’s collaboration with child welfare systems via Title IV-E training programs. We argue, alongside others, that social work must challenge the necessity of the child welfare system and the underlying rationale for family surveillance and the forcible removal of children. We contend that Title IV-E training programs serve to extend the punishing arm of the state and represent a serious violation to our code of ethics.

Drawing on examples from the presenters' research and practice in the areas of parent representation, moral injury among child welfare workers, and the expanding boundaries of the carceral state, we will illustrate the devastating effects of child welfare involvement on children, families, and practitioners. We will begin the roundtable session by problematizing the historical and present relationship between social work and child welfare, with a specific focus on the participation of schools of social work in Title IV-E training programs. We will argue that child welfare practice operates at the intersection of racial, class, and gender oppression and in direct violation of our Code of Ethics. We will then apply an abolitionist framework to further an understanding of how punishment and control are embodied in the child welfare system and to aid in a reimagining of the relationship between social work and child welfare that is “not limited by a discussion of what is possible at present� (Ben-Moshe, 2020, p. 16).

Our goal is to stimulate a discussion among attendees around the role of social work education in sustaining and reproducing the child welfare system and the ethical and moral implications of this role for families, communities, and for our students. We will encourage attendees to consider how a pedagogy rooted in abolition can encourage students to interrogate the logics of white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, and neoliberal capitalism which lie at the heart of much child welfare (and social work) practice, present movement building and resistance as legitimate forms of professional practice, and give our students the creative space to prefigure the world in an unforeseen direction. In addition to providing specific pedagogical examples from our individual practice and research, we will facilitate a dialogue with attendees on how social work educators working in the child welfare space can shift to a pedagogy of oppression to one of resistance.

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