Questioning the uncritical acceptance of neuroscience in child and family policy and practice: A review of challenges to the current doxa
Keywords:early intervention, neuroscience, social policy, social work, child welfare
INTRODUCTION: Recent directions in child and family policy in many Anglophone countries, including Aotearoa New Zealand, are underpinned by the adoption of prevention science which is used to justify state interventions into the lives of families deemed vulnerable or troubled.
METHODS: We conducted an examination of trends, firstly examining recent child welfare and protection policy. We discuss the science that underpins significant changes in policy and explore how this use of the available science dovetails with the dogma of the Western neoliberal agenda.
FINDINGS: The invocation of science in the struggle to reduce child maltreatment may be reassuring to politicians, policy developers and practitioners alike but a critical analysis is largely missing in the discourse in Aotearoa New Zealand.
CONCLUSIONS: Neuroscience is adopted largely uncritically in social policy in relation to child welfare and child protection. It can contribute to policy but other knowledge from social science findings about contextual factors in child maltreatment such as poverty, racism and class-based assumptions about parenting norms must not be ignored in social work practice.
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