The media carry stories of politicians advocating prison for those who fail to protect children. They assume that only bad social workers make mistakes.
Such remarks provide impetus for the parents of one of my families to reopen a grievance. They have long held the view that their children shouldn’t be on a child protection plan and say I should be visiting families who really are abusers.
My first visit is to a family who are severely overcrowded. It has been made worse by their taking in an elderly parent who’s had to move because of the bedroom tax.
There’s no other affordable accommodation locally and the relative’s medical support has been disrupted by changing addresses. I am there to check on the welfare of the children but most of the time is taken up with adult worries.
One of the children has drawn a picture of them all living in a big tree, and some falling out. It’s very apt.
It’s hard to explain that I have no influence in getting them rehoused but will do what I can.
I’ve been asked to do an assessment on a family, referred by a junior school. The child has difficulties with managing despite extra help and often mother forgets to collect the child at home time.
I find the child has a genetic condition linked to complex physical and emotional problems. The mother also has the syndrome, and I find her parenting does not meet the child’s needs. The grandmother doesn’t have the condition and there is good support there.
There is a steep learning curve while I find out about the condition, and much to encapsulate in the assessment. It will have to go over to the disability team but for the moment I have to complete the report.
It’s time to begin reports for two child protection conferences. These two families went on plans around the same time. One has made some good progress, with the parents better able to respond to their teenage sons. The other has not.
The teenager in the second family is very isolated, rejects the company of his peers and hardly ever goes to school. His life seems to revolve around his computer console.
Contacting the housing department about the overcrowded family gets only their answer phone. Attempts to contact the district nurse about the elderly relative meets the same response. It’s very frustrating.
The aggrieved father from Monday comes in to discuss financial problems. We talk these through and he expresses annoyance regarding child protection processes. I acknowledge that we are stuck with each other right now and we devise some realistic targets for him. Child protection needs many skills, which the political sound bites don’t acknowledge.
Hopefully, I’ve done enough this week to avoid incarceration. Nonetheless, doubts linger.