Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Social Make-Workers

HAVE YOU ever noticed how the number of social maladies keeps outpacing the increasing numbers of social workers hired to solve them? Why, it is almost as if it’s a scam or something – the more hand-wringers, the more problems they seem to discover. A little story in today’s Phage would seem to be the proof.

The article is reproduced in full below, along with what would seemto be some pertinent questions and observations:

A day in the Children's Court

THE big man with the tattoos fumbles for tissues as the magistrate gives her interim ruling that he can return to the family home with his wife and four young children. The day before the Children's Court hearing, Department of Human Services officers arrived suddenly at the family home and issued an ultimatum: he had to leave immediately - or the children would be taken into the custody of the state.

Social workers have this authority? Remarkable!

Now, 24 hours later, the entire family is assembled in the Children's Court. While the mother and father sit anxiously in the courtroom as the intimacies of their family life are revealed, the children wait outside in the foyer.

''If you had the 'luxury' of sitting here for a week; you would see an infinite variety of complex and nuanced situations - this is just one of them,'' says Andrew McGregor, who was among six lawyers sitting at the bar table last Tuesday.

Six lawyers, the case worker(s), a magistrate and an unstated number of court functionaries and support staff – that is quite a crew. This must be serious, so what is the source of all this drama?

The anatomy of this family crisis, like many matters before the Children's Court, is convoluted. The state's intervention in the household began late last year, when the oldest daughter, 13, alleged her father had touched her breast. She later retracted the allegation, saying she made up the story because she was afraid that he would hit her for leaving the gate open and enabling the family dog to escape. The pet was run over by a car.

So, even though the kid lied, that was enough to prompt an invasion of social workers who – Surpise! Surprise! – still managed to come up with reasons why the taxpayer must continue to to fund their stickybeaking.

Acting on the original allegation, however, protective concerns were lodged with the Department of Human Services last year.

The daughter’s accusation was groundless, but “protective concerns” trump the facts on the ground.

On that first visit, police went to the family home with welfare officers. The mother took out an intervention order against the father and he left the home.

Why would Mum file such an order? Quite possibly because the social workers threatened to make off with the kids if she did not. To ensure that prospect sinks in, police have been diverted from more worthwhile pursuits.

Some weeks later, he had returned by agreement (the intervention order was varied).

Mum and Dad have jumped through hoops and filed papers to get him back into his own home, where he belongs. Ah, but not everyone is happy….

The DHS remains concerned about the children's physical and emotional wellbeing. Although there have never been any other reports about the family, they say the father has been physically punishing his children and fighting with his wife.

The initial charge was a lie and there is no evidence of abuse, but the social workers are not going to let their painstakingly constructed make-work project fall to pieces. A man fights with his wife? Shocking! He smacks his daughter? Nice, upper-middle-class families – the sort that produce social workers – don’t hit kids. Dammit, they are going to have that big Islander brute out on the street. After all, arrogant white yuppies know best!

But should he be forced out of the home? That is not a decision for DHS to make. It is up to Children's Court court to decide.

It should never have been before the court in the first place. If not occupied with this drama, the court might have found the time and resources to deal with those teenage vandals who two weeks ago spray-canned the new fence of an elderly widow who lives just up the street from the Billabong. Those rascals were not apprehended, possibly because lots of police officers were serving as muscle to squadrons of predatory social workers.   

Each parent is represented by a lawyer in the hearing. There are three separate lawyers representing the children's independent interests. The children have made it clear in private interviews that they want their father back.

There was no basis to the initial charge. There is no sign of abuse. The wife and kids want him home – and yet this matter still requires the attentions of half a cricket team of learned friends, each paid from the public purse.

Chastened by the intervention order, the father's behaviour appears to have changed.

What was wrong with it in the first place?

A key piece of evidence in the case are graphs each child has independently provided to the DHS welfare officers in which they plot a much improved change of atmosphere in the household.

Dad should consider himself lucky his tormenters stuck to simple charts. If they had brought out the anatomically correct dolls he could have been in real trouble.

The father and daughter have also signed up for a range of counselling and community support services.

His “behaviour” has changed or is it his attitude? We can deduce that he is no longer raising a fuss about being booted and harassed for no good reason, perhaps having concluded that he cannot win, has no choice and is obliged to become complicit in the madness that has made his life a torment. Anxious to keep a good thing going, the social workers have brought in their mates for ongoing “counselling and community support services”. This family is going to be a nice little earner for years and years to come.

The situation is also further complicated by cultural factors. The family has been in Australia only a short time, and have a Pacific Islander background in which physical chastisement is acceptable. In a role reversal, the father, who is a shift worker, has also become primary carer. The wife combines work with tertiary study and has had to hand over some sensitive household matters to him.

In the hanky-wringers’ own homes, such a father would be regarded as an exemplar of modern, enlightened non-sexist parenting. Ah, but social workers’ fathers are not likely to be dusky sons of the islands, of whom your open-minded and progressive sorts are apparently obliged to think only the worst.

She has revealed to the welfare officer their teenage daughter has been refusing to shower, and the father has reluctantly had to deal with the issue of the daughter's personal hygiene.

How can he deal with it after what he has been through? If he gets her angry, she may ring those social workers and have him thrown out on the street again. The wonder here is that yet another cadre of DHS interferons is not on the way to the family home, possibly with police escort, to initiate and oversee soap-support services and ablution intervention.

Despite resistance from DHS, the magistrate rules in favour of the father returning home immediately. Although there will be another hearing, she is satisfied he does not present an unacceptable risk to his children.

Reluctant to let go of a good thing, DHS is still intent on crucifying poor old Dad.

That poor family. Whatever joy it experienced upon being granted official permission to re-unite, it is still being watched. It’s London to a brick they will get to see further close-up examples of the Caring Industrial Complex in action.


  1. My jaw needs wiring shut after reading that. I'm open mouth floored. Why didn't the Age hack ask any of those questions? What do they pay reporters to do?

    1. I've heard similar tales. These institutions and industries need fodder to keep their wheels turning. Don't ever let them get their claws into you. Same goes for the mental health industry; The cancer industry likes giving you a good going over also.

  2. Oh dear - and to think of those little kids farmed out into paedophile environments without the necessary checks and balances being undertaken. Glad to see the DHS concentrates on priorities!

    Where's Big Ted when you need him?


  3. Q. What's the difference between DHS and a pitt bull terrier?
    A. A pitt bull will give you your kids back.


  4. When I was a bail justice I was occasionally called in by DHS to authorise interim accommodation orders. So I saw some of this from the inside, usually late at night. The DHS workers I came across were always professional and doing their best in difficult circumstances. For the most part the families were devious and manipulating and were practised at spinning a plausible yarn. DHS workers are restrained while dysfunctional casual groupings erroneously referred to as 'families' can spout any bullshit they like and generally do.

    1. Totally agree with Walter. Have worked in state schools as a teacher/attendance officer/behaviour teacher. I can't say anything about the family in the article but more often than not I felt that DOCS WASN'T doing enough to protect children in households where domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse were affecting the kids development and ability to learn.

  5. Sorry Bunyip,
    Having family working for the Dept I hear the complete opposite stories. There may be the occasional case which is unfounded but surely it is better to look into it and investigate it properly.
    When it comes to the protection of children there are so many variables that no single case can be dismissed before being placed in front of the court. With the amount of sexual abuse and deaths of children who are listed with DHS continuing to increase it is my belief that there is more attention needed, not less.
    It is heart breaking to hear of children being placed back in bad situations, who end up more damaged, because there are no placements available. Or even worse when DHS workers have to face a Court at 100am after working all night, without proper legal representation, and try to find a solution.
    After a decade of degradation of this service and it's workers it is about time they were given a clear set of guidelines and the ability to do their job to the best of their abilities.
    Not just have to cover their backsides the whole time.

  6. Sorry, Prof. Off-topic, but I'm absolutely gagging about The Age's behaviour this evening (Tuesday) in promoting as the lead on its website a piece of biased, half-arsed "research" by a group of WA "academics" that accuses anyone flying the national flag on Thursday of being racist. The fact that The Age has promoted this hateful bile, knowing that it wedges readers according to their left-right political orientation, is disgraceful. It shows me that The Age is a divisive, political activist organisation that has no independent interest in news and it confirms to me that it has no future while the current editorial management remains in charge. http://www.theage.com.au/wa-news/australia-day-car-flag-flyers-racist-20120123-1qdoi.html

  7. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.January 24, 2012 at 11:17 PM

    Bunyip, I had occasion to notify a child within my wider family to NSW authorities not long ago. The mother is a long-term diagnosed schizophrenic and alcoholic living with a similar male, was just out of involuntary hospital scheduling, was exhibiting renewed signs of a florid psychosis, the 8 year old child in her care was distressed and living in squalor. The person listing the call said that no action would be taken, no investigation, and that coping with a florid psychosis was "not ideal", but basically not really a problem for a child, as they "learn to cope" and the mother's rights must be respected. The relevant authorities are very selective in what they take on: it seems they go berzerko and throw massive resources at any suggestion of an 'inappropriate' touch, no matter how passing or unsubstantiated, but seem often, from what I have informally heard, to ignore much else.

    On a similar ideological note, when this relative by marriage was discharged from another involuntary stay a few years ago, her own family could not take her in and she was homeless, living in a boarding house. I went with her into the nightmare of the NSW public housing system to check on her priority application to be housed, and found they had her details wrong (their fault) and she was low on the list. They said she would have to wait at least six months, quite likely for a year or more. I thought for a few seconds, and said: "Oh, how terrible that she has to put up for so long with old guys in the hostel trying to grope her" (you would grope this big and agro girl at your own risk by the way). They rang the very next day and offered her a two bedroom flat, which she was grateful to get; but something ideological is going on here. Same for the family court. Scream 'he hit me' and he'll lose the kids, even if the the 'hit' was a hand on the shoulder.

    And no, my advocacy has nothing to do with my current domestic situation. The Ape is an innocent bystander. Mine is not the oft-heard and perhaps suspect tale of a new lady in a guy's life, where the new woman takes up cudgels on the man's behalf. This is just a sad story from a middle class woman who has had, through lack of anyone else to help, to deal with 'the system' suffered by the poor and genuinely needy, financed by my taxes.

  8. It's the government, what can anyone expect. The noble cause of protecting children from violence and sexual abuse is now used as a justification for police state tactics on the slightest suspicion of bad language. Cut their budget and staff by 50% and they'll focus their attention on the priority cases and not this petty sort of power game waged against a helpless family.

  9. Professor, I am persuaded that this gentle giant and loving family man is the victim not only of a monstrous calumny but of state sanctioned and institutionalised racism. I will be forwarding your post to both the UN and Dr Charlie Teo, asking them to pursue it as a matter of urgency.

  10. There is no mention of when the daughter retracted her allegations. Also, I don't think that social services act wrongly in investigating an allegation of abuse even if it proves to be false.

  11. PhillipGeorge(c)2012January 25, 2012 at 4:36 AM

    Professor. In the last post you mention "alleged conservatives"
    This post is hand in glove in pursuit of them.

    Let's cut to the chase:

    Should a family law court even exist?

    A venue for judges to "specialise" in meddling in domestic affairs?

    The attempt to codify ad infinitum has made null and void the most fundamental precepts of law itself.

    Conservatives? There are none.

    Or maybe look for a Jim Wallace [ex SAS brigadier].

    24hour gambling, booze, abortion on demand, gay bath house "rights", fertility clinics for infertile lesbian couples, 24 hour risk free no fault divorce, secular marriage, the secular myth black hole of all history, slap across the wrist drug sentences,

    but for God's sake don't try to cut down a protected tree in Booroondara. The councilors are saving the planet.

    In the nicest of all possible ways a few Christians might say "F your gay rights, F your temples to a___h, F your no fault divorce, F your funding to every special interest group with a bent fantastic delusional gripe, F your "free" welfare state, F your licenses to pursue your own lawful goals, F the corporate monopolies with licenses to steal, F gaia and gurus of new age pantheism, F the desal plant, F windmills, F dickheads who don't know what base load means, F climatologists who cannot forecast a single season's events, F economists who think that there is such a thing as a level playing field, F investment bankers in the Liberal Party, F multiculturalists, F kindergarten teachers who want to ban a nativity scene, F sex deviants who want to bastardise biology to teach a lie, F psychiatrists who want to pathologise childhood and get free airfares to a Ritalin talk fests, F relativists who won't admit there is bad behaviour that would make them vomit, F or jail scientists who wanted to abolish the Roman and Medieval warm period, F historians who want to say Imperialism is bad and Robert Mugabe liberated Zimbabwe...

    all said in love [of course]

    Anyway Prof, if you meet a conservative try to get a few minutes with Him, he could be your last; I mean the last one you ever meet.