Who should be a parent?

By Mukti Jain Campion.

Routledge

£40 (hardback) £13.99 (paperback)

ISBN 0-415 06683-2 (hardback)

0-415-06684-0 (paperback)

This book has arrived at an interesting juncture in social work
practice with children and families. A book about ‘fit parenting’
seems quite timely when we are at a crossroads between a child care
practice very much led from the Children Act by the paramountcy
principle of children’s needs and a growing volume of opinion that
insufficient effort is being committed to supporting whole
families.

This book is an enjoyable read which puts into historical
context the roles and responsibilities of parents and the position
of children over the past century and a half. There is a
description of several different forms of professional parental
assessment processes ranging from child protection investigations
to assessment of patients for fertility treatments.

However, the description of social work assessment practice has
a rather narrow focus and is described as being based on
‘psychoanalytically-derived’ and ‘socio-political theories'; there
is no mention of a children’s needs or rights perspective or a
wider extended family basis being considered by social workers.

The author’s main proposition is that the ‘ideal parenting
model’ dating from the 1950s is no longer sustainable in our
fast-changing society.

She advocates a much clearer job analysis of the tasks and
competencies required of parents which takes account of the child’s
needs, the parent’s circumstances and the context within which
families live.

The author argues for the need to have a ‘congruence between
societal values and actual family lives’, but I am not sure this is
an achievable objective universally. I would agree the best we can
do in con sidering how well able someone is to parent is to
consider the balance of probabilities and to acknowledge there are
few, if any, certainties.

Amy Weir is director of family and community care, Family
Welfare Association.

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