Over recent decades we have become increasingly sensitised to the importance of considering the cultural and ecological contexts of child abuse. This paper illustrates the necessity for but also the complexity of doing so in practice, through reflection on some of the dilemmas faced by social work professionals encountering physical punishment and restraint of children among the Negev Bedouin. We describe several cases and reflect on two central challenges. First, we point to a significant grey area remaining between consensually unacceptable and consensually acceptable practices, and show how the evaluation of worrying incidents of this kind requires careful reading of the complex interplay of a variety of cultural and contextual factors which are sometimes not easily resolved. Second, we highlight the need for cultural competence not just in understanding but in intervening since cultural differences continue to be important-sometimes critically so-in the ways in which social work interventions are understood by and affect clients and communities. We offer a schema for intervention, distilled from decades of experience working in the Bedouin setting, which describes the kind of decision-making processes a social worker might follow in this context. This is intended to guide practitioners, but also to be used more interactively and further evolved in discussion with parents and members of the Bedouin community on the one hand, and those shaping state child care policies and procedures on the other. Thus, our schema is a kind of boundary object-a shared instrument for assessment and dialogue in which both Bedouin and professional cultures can negotiate and renegotiate their caring for children at the interface between their different but intersecting worlds.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health