Coventry Safeguarding Children
Board
Workshop
Keeping the Child at the Centre
Managing resistant and uncooperative parents / carers
Shirley Heath & Amy Weir
Coventry Safeguarding Children
Board
Safeguarding Disabled Children
Conference
February 27th 2012
Why is this a focus for practice?
• Well evidenced that Disabled Children are more
vulnerable to abuse and neglect
• Recent high profile child protection cases nationally
have raised concern about ‘resistant’ families who
do not change despite intervention
• Coventry LSCB management review has highlighted
this as an area for practice improvement particularly
for disabled children
3
What is resistance?
Ambivalence
Denial/Avoidance
Unresponsiveness to
treatment
Violence/Hostility
5
Research on effectiveness
Positive relationships with practitioners
Parental involvement
Practical help and social support for families
Services that help to build skills and
empower families
For children, stable relationships with
committed carers
Challenges related to families
• Practitioners are able to describe behaviours and
circumstances that pose challenges to their practice
including:
–
–
–
–
–
Inability to contact parents
Families’ lack of motivation/commitment
Families that are in constant crisis
Threats of and fear of Violence
Focus on parents’ need for support to care for disabled
child
– Lack of expertise to comunicate with disabled child
• But, they lacked confidence distinguishing between
families’ active engagement in treatment vs. false
compliance
7
Challenges related to working with
Disabled Children
• Communication needs may not be appreciated
• Parent may seek to speak for the child
• Illness or developmental difficulties may be
ascribed wrongly to the disability rather than to
parental / carer abuse or neglect
• Expectations of outcomes for disabled child may be
too low
8
Challenges related to practitioners
• Practitioners involved in complex cases may lose
focus on children when:
– Parents’ needs eclipse needs of children
– Parents turn the focus away from maltreatment allegations
– Parents make it difficult for practitioners to see children
alone
– Practitioners do not have sufficient experience/training to
help parents understand how their behaviour is harmful to
children
• Men, grandparents and siblings are often left out of
equation
9
Challenges related to agencies
• False dichotomy between ‘in need’ and ‘at risk’
categories – and the threshold between them
• Practitioners feel pressured to close cases
quickly and balance heavy caseloads
• Practitioners frustrated with long waits for or
lack of available specialist services
• Poor quality (and fragmented) assessments –
leading to flawed decision-making
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Implications
Practitioners may need
further training on how to
differentiate engagement
from compliance
Practitioners need to
ensure that they do not
lose sight of the child in
complex cases
Overcoming
challenges
Practitioners need
adequate time to offer
targeted services
Practitioners need to find
the middle ground and
not be either collusive or
confrontational
11
Effective Assessments
• Importance of good, in-depth assessments
cannot be overestimated
• Regular and clear Inter-agency Communication and
Information sharing
• Assessments should not be ‘one-off’ snapshots of
families’ behaviours and should include:
– Observations – particularly, parent-child interactions
– Understanding of families’ histories
– Inclusion of the whole family unit
– Information from all agencies
• Assessments should be sustained to ensure cases do
not lose momentum
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Effective Interventions
• Focused, long-term plans and services appear to achieve
better outcomes for children than episodic intervention.
• Services that seem to be effective include practical help for
families, families’ involvement in their treatment and social
support.
• Agencies and practitioners may display resistance of their
own, and strategies need to be in place to detect and overcome
this.
• The attitudes and behaviour of individual practitioners have a
major effect on whether families engage or not and more
attention needs to be paid to the ways in which they interact.
13
Effective supervision
• Most evidence mentions the importance of
management and supervision to safeguarding
practice, but few lessons on what works
• Circumstances where good supervision is
essential include when practitioners:
–
–
–
–
Are overwhelmed/lacking confidence
Experience violence
Are acting out their own strong emotions
Have less experience of particular needs such as
disability
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Implications for practice
In-depth
assessments
Coordinate
information
across
agencies
Balance
empathy with
scepticism
Observe
parent-child
interactions
Talk to children
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Collaborative learning
It is important therefore that a wider range of learning
mechanisms are developed. Munro 2011
• a clear understanding that protection of children is a shared
responsibility between agencies and professionals;
• recognition that all workers in all agencies need to be supported by
strong leadership making decisions underpinned by full and
unambiguous rationale;
• the development and examination of decision-making processes in
full partnership with each other;
• the value of sharing potential indicators of abuse or neglect and
sharing such observations at the earliest stage;
• regularly reviewing the outcomes of actions or information with
partners as part of the shared responsibility;
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Workshop - Coventry SCB