The Mayor of London believes that the radicalization of children should be considered child abuse and I am not so sure he is wrong. However, I think on subjects like this where there needs to a clear line, we also need to be sensitive in how we address things. Let’s go first to his point.
I think any child forced into believing and behaving in a way that could put not only themselves but others at risk should be subject to an intervention. But we need to consider where the radicalization is coming from and how we can address it. If it is coming from within the family then I understand that it would be pointless doing this while the children remain in the family where they are being radicalized but realistically do we have placements that will be a good match for these children? I believe families from different backgrounds can positively raise a children who is racially and or ethnically different from them but as professionals we have a responsibility to ensure that these children are introduced to and are learning about who they are in positive light. We are already sending a message that something is wrong by intervening but to appropriately address their identity needs and ensure they grow up with a view of the world that incorporates tolerance and acceptance we need to ensure that they are being mentored by or have some connection to those like them who are not part of the radical movement. I think it is very easy to say put a child in care but how much preparation would go into that? Isn’t this the beginnings of a cultural scare that could lead to local authority panic attacks?
Like a lot of societal ills a knee jerk reaction would not be the best way to manage a concern. But we also have to balance this with the amount of time we allow these children to remain in toxic environments. If the Mayor feels so strongly on the issue I would like to see what kind of support is being offered to local authorities by way of cultural, ethnic and racial education to ensure the children who may come into care are being treated equally; that even though radical views are being drilled into their heads, they are still viewed as children, they are still viewed as individuals who can learn. I find that inflammatory statements like this are put out into the public and they do exactly what they are set out to – inflame. And this isn’t inflammation with understanding, oh no. This is sheer inflammation with previous tragic events fueling the fire – even being used to stoke the fire and make an argument. If we are saying the children are the concerns, then I say we need a plan of action. We need people from their own cultures and ethnicities who are willing to come forward and work with the government in order to re-educate them and ensure they are able to succeed and excel without bias. They should be able to grow without prejudice from others or to others.
I think politicians and professionals have a duty to be more careful with what we say and how we say it. I think it is socially irresponsible (though it may be well within their rights) for politicians and professionals to make inflammatory statements without a fair and balanced view of the statement’s effects on the wider public. There is a large enough population of Muslims in England for us to find more understanding ways to address problems. There has to be a way to work with communities to address the issues within them. Releasing statements to the wider public about the problem and a proposed solution without a well thought out plan as to how to protect the innocent who may experience backlash just isn’t good enough. Make a proposal without considering the professionals it will affect isn’t good enough.
Has Mr Johnson been working with Social Work professionals on a way to address what he sees as the issue? Has he had discussion about putting out guidance and educating professionals on how to do this. Is there a government initiative to assist professionals in re-educating the children of radicals? Or are they meant to languish in foster care with a good christian family until they forget who they are?
I believe Mr Johnson is right, there is a reluctance to address this because we’re not sure if they safeguarding laws support such an action. I believe it is also a slippery slope because there are so many questions: are the families who take these children in at risk? Are professionals at risk? Do we have the adequate tools to assess how deep their, for lack of a better word, programming is? Do we have adequate community links to help re-educate these children? Are we investing in programs to ensure that professionals (social workers and providers) know how to manage providing the assistance that is needed? Is it even clear what these children will need?
As Social Workers we are not only concerned with the children we bring into care, we are also concerned with the impact these children have on others. Some of them come from horrific backgrounds, they are dealing with their own issues as well as trying to manage living in a new environment, in addition to being thrust into a new culture and way of being. How much consideration is being given to what happens once they leave their families? How much consideration is being given to the policies that will govern what happens when these children are in placement (i.e. – running away/absconding, impact on other children in the home, impact on other children in their new school environments, mental health and stability of the children taken into care)? Do we place siblings together? If not, how are we accounting for the mental trauma that will cause on top of taking them from their families everything they know and this doctrine (however risky and dangerous) that they have been trained to follow?
As with any incident that raises concerns which are then filtered down to Social Workers, I have to ask – Are We Asking the Right Questions? We have to remember that risk is multidimensional with dual pathways. We have to balance the risk to others as well as the risk from others. I wholeheartedly believe that any initiative address issues arising within a group of people should include people from that population who stand against the issue being addressed. Again, I think it is imperative that politicians and professionals consider their words and the facts with excruciating care before revealing them to the public. These revelations should also be accompanied by blatant disclosures regarding the ACTUAL scope of the problem. It is one thing to educate the public it is another to inflame them and provide those who are already even slightly biased a reason to fully engage hatred. Do we know that a significant portion of children who are being radicalized are getting this from the home? Do we know the percentages by local authority or area? Do we know how many are exposed to this kind of doctrine in the home? If not, then we need to look harder. Where are the messages coming from? Are they from community groups? Are certain types of children being targeted? Are children being groomed? Are there dangerous radicals operating in the communities that need to be targeted and apprehended? Who are the adults that are recruiting these children? Are the families even aware that their children are being radicalized? Or is it happening under the guise of some innocuous activity?
What do we know about the ACUTAL problem? Mr Johnson mentions that “many of those involved in counter-terrorism that there should be a clearer legal position.” What is being done to apprehend the adults who are radicalizing the children? Does law enforcement even know who is doing it? Do they have even an inkling? Why are they not gathering intelligence and evidence of this then shutting them down? Following that they can find the children associate with these people and provide an intervention to re-educate them. I hate the idea of people using children to fight adult battles. But what I hate even more are children as casualties of adult interventions that should have first looked into the adults causing the problem. No one is born racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, atheist, sexist, or anti – anything. These are things they learn and if they learn, they can re-learn.
I oppose statements like the ones made by Mr Johnson because as a Social Work I am aware of the possible fall out and backlash of such statements on the communities they effect. These statements are socially irresponsible. They are morally questionable and they are highly inflammatory. Nothing good can come from them. As one person said, they are “easy headlines”, fodder for talk show hosts and shock jocks. None of this serve to bring us any closer as people how does it hide the inherent insecurities in the pseudo majority population. People fear what they don’t understand and most don’t even venture to find out.
I urge all Social Workers to get to know the people with which they are tasked to work. Know what is considered “normal” and what isn’t. Find people in the community that want the best for their communities and make them your allies. Be genuine about your desire to continue the fight for social justice – the banner we all pick up when we sign up to be Social Workers. Don’t allow political agendas and propoganda to be the defining foundation of your work. Challenge, question and be heard. You are not standing on your own. There are so many doing the same. Educate yourself so you can provide the best possible service to the most vulnerable of us. There is pride in this profession. There is strength in this profession. We need to embrace our ability to influence so we can make positive definitive changes.