Unravelling risk in child protection
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 10:48 by Katharine Claire Williamson
This thesis looks critically at risk management and its dominance in child welfare policy. The Knightian and Keynesian view of risk compared to uncertainty is used to show that 'risk' is not the correct term for understanding capitalist economies because they are always unpredictable. This thesis takes the Keynesian view of radical uncertainty into the social policy field to demonstrate that the term 'risk' is even less useful. An analysis of major historical developments and recent changes to child welfare policy in New South Wales sees dangers to children framed as risks capable of measurement and prediction. Rather than accept this notion, this thesis casts dangers to children as unknowable and unpredictable to show that attempts to quantify risk in policy ignore uncertainty. It argues that any model relying on risk is unlikely to strengthen child protection systems as intended. In an effort to conceptualise an alternative framework, I consider what it means to look out for and welcome children into the world and suggest how child welfare policy might adopt models from this standpoint.