Child protection social workers walk a tightrope between protecting children in their families and protecting them from their families. Well-documented scandals have involved both the failures of social workers to intervene soon enough, if at all, and failures involving premature or draconian interventions which were subsequently found to be unwarranted. While doctors differ and patients die, there is a public expectation that social workers will protect all of the children all of the time.
Although the perceived shortcomings of social workers often make the headlines, little is written about the unpalatable job they do for society, or about the individual children and families who are at the receiving end of their (often unwelcome) intervention. Having retired from forty years in statutory social work, Paul Harrison decided to tell that story. Hanged If You Do…: Reflections from a Career in Child Protection is a personal account that finds humour even in the darkest places.
Hanged If You Do… provides an insight into the politics of child protection and addresses sensitive issues of public interest such as:
- Supporting vulnerable families who may not want to be helped
- Physical and sexual abuse
- Mental illness
- Drug addiction
- Youth homelessness
- Children in care
- Family privacy versus State authority
Hanged If You Do… provides a vital insight into the changing world of child care and social work over the past 40 years and offers a compelling social history of that time.
Paul Harrison is a registered social worker working in child protection since 1978. He continues to practice in that area, making him one of the most well-known and experienced social workers in Ireland. He was a member of the national management team of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency upon its establishment in 2014, and was a regular spokesperson for the agency on radio, television and print media. He is currently in private practice and also a board member of the Adoption Authority of Ireland and the Daughters of Charity Child and Family Service.
On 30 June 21 in The Irish Times, Child protection workers ‘don’t shrug it off in the car on the way home’ – Paul Harrison’s new memoir reflects on his 40 years doing society’s ‘dirty job’ by Sheila Wayman.