Do parents always want what is best?

Holmes says the assessment framework for children in need could lead social
workers into a false sense of security.

a training session on the new assessment framework for children in need, I was
struck by this comment officially introducing the framework: "Parents and
carers invariably want to do the best for their children."

amazed me further was that no one among about 100 other professionals gathered
in the room had the least qualm about this proposition. Do parents and carers
invariably want to do the best for their children? Looking at the premise from
another angle, what conditions or circumstances would lead any parent or carer
to want a poorer, or even the worst, outcome for a child for whom they are
responsible? Several explanations spring to mind. A parent figure might feel
right to punish a child for some shortcoming or wrongdoing. Social services
departments are littered with the files of children subject to child protection
procedures following "over chastisement".

parent might be too damaged to look after a child properly. He or she could
have been physically or sexually abused in childhood, or early adulthood, or in
a previous marital or quasi-marital relationship, or at the time of the child’s

these times of blended or reconstituted families, it is highly likely that a
parent figure will be transient, and unrelated to an adopted, fostered or
already resident child. Mobile father figures are quite likely to be in debt
and owe maintenance payments to previous families. Some estimates say that a
temporary cohabitant father is 50 times more likely to harm a child in the
household than his married or long-standing partnered equivalent. Research has
yet to be specific about the risks imposed by mobile mothers: definitely a
growing danger.

parent figure might be too displaced to look after the needs of a child. This
happens when an adult is so insecure that he needs his own material, sexual and
social needs to be met before anything else. This list is not exhaustive.

question is not one of blame. All sorts of circumstances lead 10per cent of
parent figures or more to not only neglect some of the needs of their children,
but also actively to hurt them. The true degree of ill-treatment is unreported
to the authorities.

danger is that some social workers and their managers will read the assessment
framework and be numbed into a false sense of security that parents and carers
"invariably" want the best for their children. That means not
suspecting ill-treatment, not expecting it, not looking out for it, not
investigating it and eventually not preventing it.

Holmes is a child care field worker in the Midlands.

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