Critical Practice in Working With Children

Author(s) Tony Sayer
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Published 2008
Pages 224
Price £19.99
ISBN 9780230543195
Reviewed by Mrs Maggie Leese
University of Wolverhampton
Review published 23 October 2008

This very interesting book would be valuable to any student or practitioner working in Children and Family Services. This very timely text encourages students to develop a critical approach to ‘real world’ situations drawing on Social Constructionism, Feminism and Marxist theory amongst others. The introduction challenges the reader to evaluate both policy and practice and goes well beyond the ‘how to’ level and engages with issues relating to the power imbalance between workers and service users. The author makes the link between theoretical underpinning and ideological influences, challenging the reader to consider the impact of oppression on children and families. Drawing on contemporary arguments, including the suggestion that the police and welfare agencies could be accused of ‘policing the poor’, he encourages students and professionals to consider the concept of winners and losers as a method of considering changes in social policy.

The book does use a theoretical framework but the links between theory and practice are visible and it draws on a number of ‘models’ that would be useful, again encouraging the reader to examine taken for granted concepts that surround the modern family, including the supposition that family is based on kinship. The book also discusses the children’s rights approach and makes suggestions about how it can be used to illuminate the ideological differences and approaches to working with children and young people. Taken the point further the author highlights how moral panics can promote the view that children are deviant and need to be ‘controlled’ drawing on the Jamie Bulger murder and the public response. Chapter three picks up the issue of safeguarding children, encouraging the reader to consider if the issue of child protection is a social construct that changes over time and goes on to link this to the Common Assessment Framework in an interesting way. The issue of assessment is taken further by considering if parenting can be assessed in a meaningful way grappling with current debates and encouraging the reader to reflect on their own and others practice.

Chapter five of the book is another excellent chapter that discusses the issues related to children that are ‘Looked After’ (LAC) and draws on discussions about corporate parenting. By applying a systems approach the author encourages the reader to explore the issues for children within the LAC system and again challenges some taken for granted assumptions. Other chapters within the book highlight the needs of children in a range of places and set the discussion in the context of a theoretical framework encouraging the reader to do the same. At the end of each chapter key points are presented and some very useful suggestions for further reading are given ensuring that each chapter could be read in isolation. Throughout the book case studies are offered to illuminate the issues that are being discussed and this is strength of the book for students and practitioners wanted to extend their knowledge.

I would recommend this book to students both on undergraduate and post graduate courses in Health, Education or Social Work and to practitioners and managers in Children Services. The strengths of the book are that it is accessible but it offers an excellent starting point for anyone researching any area relating to children and families in the community.