The Weakest Link: Child Protection

February 29, 2008

Hugh Connor director of social work in the eastern area of N Ireland said to me a couple of years ago that child protection is a very weak chain. He said the links are broken by two things in particular: poor professional practice and breakdowns in the relationships between the adults who are meant to be caring for the child or young person.

Can’t think of an exception to this rule. The chain is fragile in the first place because children have a very weak voice in society.

The horrific details emerging about the Jersey children’s home this week illustrate the evil abuse of power adults can exercise over children.

Imagine if Carlsberg orgainsed alternative family placements for children who cannot live with their natural birth family. Good fostering solutions probably offer close to the ideal. They can provide a personal and close set of relationships where the child can be loved, nurtured and valued. The Carlsberg solution might also use frequent narrative collection to capture the authentic experiences of children. This would alert us to weak signals of unhappiness as well as positive signs of progress.

I am about to design and manage a project aimed at improving relationships between foster carers and professional social workers with the aim of creating a truly cooperative culture which the contribution of and role of each party is valued and respected. Strengthening the chain.

Children and young people are highly sensitised to atmosphere. They pick up on conflict and fractured relationships betwen the adults on whom they depend. I plan to use anecdote capture from all involved including children and young people. They will tag/index the SMIs and help me develop a survey tool which we can use to take baseline measure of the current culture. The results will be presented back to everyone to diagnose the key issues which need to be addressed by individual behaviour/organisational changes. We will the run this out and repeat in the future to track shifts.

Signing off for the week, Thank goodness for Monday Mornings. Without them we would not have the Friday Feeling. Just back from Standing Up at Ravenhill in a gale where Ulster Rugby showed another visiting Welsh team how to play.

Thank you Dave for your intellect which has been the engine driving a lot of pioneering and significant developments the last few years and for your generous support to practitioners like me.

Keep burning bright.

Anne Mc

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