Child abuse within Black African families is an important topic which has been given extensive attention in British social work research and literature to date. However, only a limited research on child abuse in African families have really considered the impact of socio-economic factors on social work interventions since the inception of the Children Act 1989 (England and Wales). Now the question is why is the issue of socio-economic status of West African families living in the UK an important factor to consider in social work intervention in child abuse cases? My aim in addressing this topic is that research works and literature show that Black children and their families are more likely than whites to be subjected to unnecessary child abuse interventions by social work agencies and other professionals (Bernard & Gupta, 2006).
Recent research show that in all groups, black children were over-represented on the child protection register under the category of poor parenting behaviour leading to all forms of abuse compared to white children (Bernard & Gupta, 2006). This may also be seen within the context of the pathologization of Black families which, incorporates the view that black people, their socio-economic lifestyles are inherently problematic and need correcting (Singh 2006, p. 19) and therefore social workers may intervene unnecessarily in such families. Social workers on the contrary may hesitate to intervene with Black families due to being unsure whether certain parenting behaviours resulting from low socio-economic status are really an abuse or not.
The potential consequences of such approach for Black families will be either that the children and their families will be unnecessarily investigated under the child protection system and may be subject to court orders, admitted to local authority care, and/or adopted, or that there will not be appropriate intervention by social workers for black children at risk of significant harm, and therefore children may continue to be harmed or even die. This is evident in recent years, where the vulnerability of some black African children in Britain has been highlighted by the tragic deaths of two African children: Victoria Climbié (Laming, 2003) and the young boy known as Adam, whose torso was found floating in the River Thames (Sale, 2005). Also more recently, media reports of possible ‘ritual’ abuse of African children in Britain were fuelled by the criminal prosecution in relation to Child ‘B’, who was physically abused because it was believed she was a ‘kindoki’—a victim of witchcraft possessed by the devil (Tendler and Woolcock, 2005; Thompson, 2005).
In a broader context Socio-economic status is defined as:
‘a composite measure that typically incorporate economic status, which is measured by income; social status, measured by education; and work status, measured by occupation’ (Dulton & Levine, 1989, p.30).
The three indicators are interrelated but not fully overlapping variables. In this context socio-economic status is considered in terms of economic status, defined as low income or poverty. The difficulties for majority of West African Black families who are mainly asylum seekers from poverty-stricken and war-torn countries now living in the UK are not confined only to how they may be viewed by social workers involved in child care but significantly by their
child-rearing differences arising from their socio-economic backgrounds (Beranard &
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