Faculty Lecture with Social Welfare Professor, Dr. Jill Berrick

    Tuesday, April 21, 2020 at 3:00 PM until 4:00 PMPacific Daylight Time


    The impossible imperative: Navigating the competingprinciples of child protection


    Protecting children from maltreatment may be an impossibletask. Press coverage often suggests the over- or under-involvement of socialworkers; instances when parents or children experienced tragic injustice at thehands of the child welfare system. Accounts from the media often characterize caseworkers as either biasedbaby snatchers, or error-prone bureaucrats who miss signals of risk.  And admonitions from public officials, whoclaim that the standard for the profession is perfection, or who claim azero-tolerance policy for error, do little to help the public understand thecomplexity of the work. 

    Impossible?  Maybe, ifwe insist on a fault/blame paradigm.  Butthe measure of child welfare as rightor wrong is misguided; “perfect” isirresponsible. Efforts to protect children from harm are imperative, butcaseworkers can’t do their job following simplistic prescriptions.  Social workers should instead be judged bytheir efforts to conduct principledpractice.

    This presentation will lay out eight fundamental principlesthat guide social work practice.  Eachprinciple appears straightforward, however, the principles collide with oneanother -- not in rare, exceptional cases, but in the average cases that serveto typify child welfare practice. Students will consider how these tensions live at the heart of childwelfare, how to wrestle with prioritizing one value over another, and how tounderstand the moral ambiguities at stake when privileging one principle overanother. 



    Jill Duerr Berrick serves as the Zellerbach FamilyFoundation Professor in the School of Social Welfare at U.C. Berkeley.  Berrick’s research focuses on therelationship of the state to vulnerable families, particularly those touched bythe child welfare system.  She haswritten or co-written 11 books on topics relating to family poverty, childmaltreatment, and child welfare services and has written extensively foracademic journals. Berrick’s research approach typically relies upon the voicesof service system consumers to identify the impacts of social problems and socialservice solutions in family life.  Hernewest book, The Impossible Imperative:Navigating the Competing Principles of Child Protection examines childwelfare professionals and the morally contentious and intellectually demandingchoices they regularly face in their work with children and families.  

    Link to Presentation

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