6. Blame and meta-blame

Shame, pity and guilt in public policy

I understand the roots of the unconscious parts of the child protection system, the invocation of a ‘war against abuse’ that Hilary Cottam mentioned in the last intervention. In child protection, blame seems to be the dominant emotion. Blame guides so many decisions about the best interests of the child. When things go wrong — and many things have gone wrong in efforts to protect children from maltreatment — public systems focus on procedure and compliance. When this fails a sort of ‘meta-blame’ starts, a collective jerk of the societal knee that indicates that it is all the fault of useless social workers or lazy governments or both.

Josh MacAlister is CEO of Frontline, bringing innovation to social work training.

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