NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

September 16, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

We’ve long noticed and been concerned about the lack of men in the field of social work. Social workers are the tip of the state’s spear when it’s aimed at families. That’s true in divorce court and when Child Protective Services comes knocking. And we’ve also noticed that, in many of those interactions between parents and the state, it’s often men who end up holding the short end of the stick.

That’s true, for example, when CPS takes a child from an abusive or neglectful mother. The Urban Institute found that, in over half of those cases, no attempt is made to contact the father as a possible placement for the child. That preference for foster care over father care is just one of the many failures of child welfare authorities nationwide.

The issue of the paucity of male social workers is on the mind of social worker Jack Kammer here (Governing, 9/15/16). Like so many people these days, he seems to believe that a healthy dose of “diversity” is just the thing for what ails many aspects of society including social work. I’m not so sure, but Kammer’s argument bears noting.

Social work's diversity problem may be even worse than law enforcement's. While minorities make up more than 27 percent of police departments nationwide, men make up barely 16 percent of the ranks of social workers, according to federal data. And a look at social-work education suggests that the trend continues in the wrong direction: According to the Council on Social Work Education, just 13.3 percent of the recipients of master's degrees in social work in 2015 identified as male. In 1964, the figure was 42.1 percent.

So, ironically, a field that loudly proclaims its commitment to diversity and inclusiveness lags far behind one that is often thought to be insular, secretive, conservative and hidebound. Law enforcement is taking concrete, meaningful action to address its diversity problem. Social work is doing nothing of the sort.

Just for the record, CPS takes a backseat to no occupation when it comes to being “insular, secretive… and hidebound.” Indeed, virtually all of CPS actions occur out of sight of the public or the press. Unsurprisingly, that’s just how they like it. And of course, secrecy breeds incompetence and a bunker mentality.

Curiously, Kammer’s piece reveals important issues with social workers and the schools that produce them, but fails to notice the import of what he says.

The result is that the field of social work does a poor job of dealing with family issues in ways that take into account the needs of both men and women -- and the children they parent. As a 2015 study of social-work practices in Connecticut reported, some fathers complained that "being male put them at a disadvantage and that case workers often took the side of the mother before initial contact with the father was made."

True enough. We’ve read very similar complaints from fathers in Canada and the U.K. as well. There too they find an often virulent dislike and distrust of men generally and fathers in particular.

But while supportive services for parenting and other social relationships are the functional charge and ethical duty of social work, the field has proven to be disinterested and ill-equipped to deal with relationship inequality between men and women, fathers and mothers. And schools of social work seem to have little interest in the issue. After a long teaching career and a systematic review of a decade's worth of journal articles and textbooks, Jordan Kosberg, a professor of social work at the University of Alabama, concluded that "social workers do not receive necessary preparation for understanding and working with heterosexual males."

And that is exactly my point. It’s not the sex of the social worker that’s so important, it’s how she’s trained in her master’s degree program that matters. As long as those schools channel a virulent form of misandry, we can’t seriously be surprised when social workers distrust men. Again, in more than one country, we see social workers assuming men to be violent and, when they seek custody of their children, to have an ulterior motive and, in any case, to be unqualified to care for children.

Women aren’t born with those attitudes; they’re taught. They’re taught in schools of social work.

More to the point, no amount of “diversity” will erase that teaching from the minds of social workers so trained. The idea that male students won’t absorb the same lessons as female ones is nonsense.

And that of course is much of the problem with the idea of “diversity” as a cure-all. I know it’s popular to pretend that, if we just hire enough black police officers then, in some way, the police will start treating young black men better. But I’m not convinced because black officers show no less inclination to shoot or otherwise harm unarmed black men than do white officers. After all, three of the six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray were black.

Kammer follows suit, assuming, with little evidence, that more male social workers will result in the field’s being more male friendly. The problem with the very concept of “diversity” is that it commits the same sin as it’s supposed to redeem. Racism and sexism are based in the notion of the “other,” i.e. that, based solely on physical traits, we can draw (often invidious) distinctions between individuals and groups.

The reverence for “diversity” assumes exactly the same. But instead of excluding the other, it includes him. If the cure for mostly female schools of social work is more males, then males must be so different from women that they are necessary to right what’s wrong with those schools. And what’s assumed to be “wrong” with those schools is an overabundance of women. Despite the blandishments of radical feminists, women aren’t naturally averse to men. Assuming they are, as Kammer seems to, is no different from assuming that young black males are oversexed and prone to violence. Again, the problem is neither with the sex of social workers nor the race of police officers. The problem is what they learn when training for (or in) their professions.

The simple truth is that, irrespective of the circumstances, men and women can be trained to treat both men and women appropriately in police work, social work and elsewhere. To pretend that we can solve the problems of those occupations by simply balancing racial and gender quotas is facile and wrong. We long ago ran off the rails when we began treating people differently based on physical characteristics, when we assumed black people to be incapable of civilized conduct and women to be lacking in the ability to reason. Those assumptions were wrong then and they’re wrong now. The belief that “diversity” will solve the problems created by those assumptions is equally wrong. It’s wrong because it’s the same sort of thinking – that human beings are so insuperably different that no white person can understand a black person nor a man understand a woman.




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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

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#socialwork, #diversity, #misandry

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