A birthmother’s counter-story of racism and oppression in children’s social work: Carving an Afro-centric space for Sawubona in Euro-centric social work education, practice, and the safeguarding system

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In this article, I ask ‘What are the specific challenges and controversies that birth mothers of ethnic minorities (EM) experience in the safeguarding context’? The aim is to examine safeguarding practices and ascertain how power, racism and gender oppression are understood and experienced by mothers of EMs in social work. The literature highlighted complexities and ethical concerns regarding child protection services with EMs in England. Undertaking qualitative research, a case study approach was used, and purposive sampling was applied to recruit and interview six mothers of EM backgrounds. This article provides an empowering space for Miriam, an Asian mum recounting her lived experiences of statutory social work. Critical theory, critical race theory and intersectionality were the theoretical frameworks, and a framework approach was utilised for data analysis. Key findings revealed the insidious nature of racism, oppression and White dominance, constructing devastating, adversarial work practices that oppressed, excluded, and deprived Miriam. There was an urgent need for change. Drawing on my African heritage, I theorise that the Afro-centric philosophy of Sawubona could make a profound contribution to British social work. Elucidating, ‘I see the whole of you’, the Sawubona practice model illustrates social work values of equality, empathy, dignity, tolerance and respect.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Early online date26 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Feb 2024

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