Anti-oppressive practice should not negate the risks posed to the child. Intervention based on anti-oppressive practice incorporates a risk and needs analysis of both mother and child (p. 237).
The authors also state that anti-oppressive practice must move beyond descriptions of the nature of oppression toward more dynamic and creative ways of working. Numerous theorists and authors have addressed these issues and show ways I which the social worker can develop a more anti-oppressive approach for certain specific tasks and in a general way for all social work practice. Hugman and Smith (1995) consider the idea in terms of ethical considerations, and clearly oppression itself is an ethical issue and anti-oppressive practices should serve as a more ethical construct and guide for the behavior of the social worker. A major concern has been the tendency for social workers to be affected by race and racism, as Barn (1993) notes with respect to social work practice in regard to black children. Similar differences between the social workers' ethnic backgrounds and those of their clients can be strong when the clients are Aborigines, immigrants, Asians in a white society, and any group that is different from the majority group in a given social setting. Gender distinctions can also become an occasion for differential treatment, though this effect may not be as readily apparent to observers in spite of two or three decades of feminist critiques. Power differences generally obtain between social worker and client, for the plight of the client creates a situation of powerlessness for that client even if he or she is from a social group that is not normally considered powerless.
These various differences can be magnified in the social work setting for that very reason, as powerlessness becomes an identifying feature for those who need social services and as those who are always deemed powerless have their status both confirmed and exacerbated by contact with the social worker. In many situations, age could also be identified as a source of oppression, with both the young and the old at greater risk for being part of an oppressed class. In terms of power vs. powerlessness, the young and the old tend to have less power than the working-age adult population. Those "at-risk" can be identified by a series of factors and characteristics that place young people and older people in danger of negative outcomes in the future. Young people differ in the degree of risk they face, in its source, and so in what can be done for them. Racism and poverty are two of the major causes for these problems, and there is also much argument over who is at risk and what factors cause them to be at-risk. What should not be doubted is that there are young people in trouble and in need of assistance, and many of the theorists emphasis this by focusing on abused child situations, though children living in poverty face a future just as uncertain and suffer even more than do their parents from oppressive situations.
More specific problems for individual families also contribute to the possibility of creating at-risk youth. The family is a basic unit of society and is usually regarded not only as indispensable but as the key element in socialization processes and in the perpetuation of societal values. The family has been the basic unit of society from ancient times to the present. Different cultures may view the family and certain kinships in a differing light, but the basic family unit is a near-universal social reality, with the nuclear family of parents and children a norm understood by virtually everyone. Creating and maintaining a successful family requires a number of decisions regarding what a successful family may be and how it can be achieved. The degree of oppression faced by a family should certainly not be increased by oppressive social work practices, and to the degree possible, social work should reduce oppression and not add to it.
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