Child Protection Ain’t Rocket Science

“Child protection practice is not rocket science”, I hear them say. Well, I would like to take a little journey (and please join me if you can spare the time) to explore the implications of this statement. I found some interesting discussions and explanations about rocket science when searching the internet to gain some idea of what it is that people actually could be referring to when making the statement. So, let’s for argument’s sake look at rocket propulsion, as this is the culmination of the sum of the parts actually in motion – “coming alive”, so to speak.

The motion of a rocket is an application of Newton’s third law of motion and law of conservation of linear momentum. A rocket is a projectile that carries the rocket fuel and the oxidiser, which supplies the oxygen needed for combustion. Liquid hydrogen, liquid paraffin etc., are used as rocket fuels and hydrogen peroxide, liquid oxygen etc., are used as oxidisers. The fuel-oxidiser combination in a rocket is called the propellant.

The simplest form of a rocket consists of a combustion chamber in which a solid or liquid propellant is burnt. There is a nozzle at its tail through which the gaseous products of combustion can escape. The rocket forces a jet of hot gases downwards through the nozzle. This is the action. The jet of gases exerts an equal force on the rocket, pushing it forward. This is the reaction. This force gives the rocket a forward acceleration. Hence, the rocket acquires a momentum of equal magnitude in opposite direction. Thus the rocket moves upwards.

Standard concepts or constants are expressed as laws and some of these that are the basis for rocket science are:
• Newton’s First Law of Motion
• Newton’s First Law of Motion
• Newton’s First Law of Motion
• Law of Conservation of Momentum
• Force of Friction
• Force of Motion

These laws enable the scientists to develop formulas to calculate exact outcome of the action of the forces that operate according to these laws. With precise measurements that can substitute the elements of the formulas it is possible for the scientists to work out exactly what inputs result in what outputs or outcomes.

Now, in child protection practice we do not really have laws that express constants. The closest we get to that might be the laws that our society has created which set the legal parameters within which we are required to practice. Remember that these laws change and are only an expression of what the popular thoughts on certain issues are in society at that time – therefore far from being a constant “truth”. Beyond these there are theories, models, frameworks and principles that have been developed. The basis for any of these are supposedly informed by science and research, but often are more so informed by conjecture, assumptions, wild leaps of so-called logic and so on. The elements that play a role in these frameworks upon which we base child protection practice are bewildering to say the least – It would seem in fact quite infinite.

Consider the elements at play in one single human being – from the level of the organism, through to the various systems, the concept of the physical, mental, spiritual and meta-physical dimensions of a person. Then consider all of these in motion – the fuels that energise, the course that has been set, the speed at which it travels (velocity), the resultant action and reaction, not to mention the motivators (which, by the way, do not apply in rocket science). Another confounding or complicating factor is that, where rockets launched are likely to not encounter another rocket, ever – the human “projectile” is bound to inter-act and collide with any number of other units of varied size, type, model, etc. (of which the Child Protection Practitioner is also one) – all causing any number of possible outcomes, not to mention other units doing the same and all of these inter-acting.

I would imagine that it would be great if it were possible to (maybe one day) be able to identify the constants (should they exist) for child protection practice, based on that place all elements in a formula as they relate to one another and measure the values that each element represents, placing those into the formula and then calculate the output or outcome in order to be able to predict accurately what the outcome of one singular action of one human unit would be. Now consider the number of actions of one such “unit” and the multiplying effect that would result.

Some further considerations would be for example the bureaucratic system that sets further parameters for child protection practice. In the rocket science programs such as NASA, the budget for the research of new rocket science technologies is US$100bn, US$9.1bn had already been spent on the next trip to the moon, which has now been cancelled in favour of the research into new technologies and another US$4bn on what is referred to as human space exploration (lately changed to “dramatic changes in rocketry”) – there are other similar budgets spent on other aspects of the rocket science program. According to NASA’s website the total number of employees at NASA is around 17 000 to 18 000 people at any given time. I can’t help but wonder if we were to put so much value in how well we manage the health and resilience of our children, their families and their communities, what type of outcome we might be able to “calculate” – remembering that the NASA program only looks at space travel technologies, while managing the health and resilience of children, families and communities represent a multitude of programs. Granted the NASA program has many spin-offs, but then, so could programs addressing child protection and related programs. But rockets are expensive things, I hear them say – I wonder then what the value of one human child is?

In conclusion – I guess – considering the above, I have to concur with the statement made: “child protection practice is indeed not rocket science” – albeit possibly for quite a different sentiment to what is popularly implied.


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