Mark Smith, School of Social Work, University of Edinburgh

 

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The notion of care has been marginalised within social work. In a profession that seeks to promote independence and autonomy care can be associated with dependency. Neoliberal political and economic orthodoxies conceptualise and manage care within what might be thought of as a justice rather than a care orientation, privileging universalising discourses of children's rights and child protection. Against such a backdrop the practice of relationally based care is crowded out amidst a proliferation of rules and regulations. This presentation will locate a notion of care at the heart of what child care workers do. Caring, which starts in the everyday woof and warp of daily life, becomes the foundation for addressing issues of personal growth and development as well as introducing and addressing wider societal concerns of anti-social behaviour, citizenship, and ultimately the capacity to give and receive care. This involves practitioners in the very direct, particular, complex and often-messy aspects of caring 'for' rather than just 'about' children. Care ethics, with roots in feminist thinking provide a conceptual framework within which to consider what it means to care.