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The return of guardianship to natural parents : an exploratory study of a sample group of children apprehended under the Protection of Children Act in a rural area in British Columbia, in the decade 1950-1960 Vicelli, Letti Jane

Abstract

The Protection of Children Act in British Columbia makes provision for the removal and the restoration of guardianship to natural parents. This process, which is designed to safeguard the rights of both parents and children, involves the two disciplines of social work and the law. The social worker is directly concerned with the decision to apprehend a child and, subject to the decision of the court, separate him from neglectful parents. He is also concerned with enabling the parents to ameliorate the circumstances of neglect, and to assist them to apply to the court for the restoration of parental rights. The social work process thus goes on before the apprehension, during the court hearing, and after the committal of the child. The final disposition in both the removal and the restoration of guardianship is made by the judge of the juvenile court. This study is undertaken to illuminate the elements involved in social work responsibility in this area of child welfare practice. A sample group of families was selected, and their experience assessed for analytical and illustrative purposes. The study concentrates on two sets of factors: (1) those present at the time of removal of guardianship, and (2) the circumstances which enabled the restoration of parental rights. The data are evaluated on the basis of (a) parental strengths, (b) the nature of community concern and action, (c) the role of the social agency, (d) the nature of the client-social worker relationship, and (e) the part played by the juvenile court. Parental strengths are rated on the basis of objective and subjective criteria, developed from concepts pertinent to social diagnosis. The study brings out the need for definitive criteria on which to rate parental adequacy, in order that the grave decision to separate the child from his parents may he made with the greatest possible accuracy in diagnosis. There is responsibility for social workers to define the type of neglect which embraces psychological as well as physical factors, and to interpret this definition to the larger community for incorporation into legislation. Changing trends in child protection theories should be made known to the judges of the juvenile court in order that the socio-legal process is conducted to the best advantage of both parents and children. The social agency must maintain contact with natural parents after the removal of their children, as it has been shown that change can take place in parental capacity, or parental circumstances such as remarriage. This is an area clearly worthy of further research.

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