In the Firing Line: Violence and Power in Child Protection Work

By Janet Stanley and Chris Goddard.
John Wiley & Son
ISBN 0 471 99885 0

This study examines the interplay between intimidation by
violent parents and child protection failure. Its central premise
is that workers who are subject to physical and psychological
violence may develop hostage-like behaviour and lose the capacity
to intervene effectively.

The authors use hostage theory as a framework for understanding
helplessness and link it with other theories. This works well,
although findings from attachment research and the neurosciences
would enhance this exploration of fear.

It is worth remembering that violent clients are themselves
fearful and unable to regulate their emotions. Evidence is given of
the loss of focus on child protection that results from fear-driven
systems and a powerful case is made for the impact of fear on child
protection to be recognised and taken seriously.

Based on Australian research, practitioners will readily
identify with the case material. Readers will be challenged to
reconsider the existence of “untreatable” parents, the concept of
family support and the nature of supervision. Those on the front
line may feel less isolated and more confident to press for
effective support.

Sue Richardson is a psychotherapist, trainer and
co-editor of Creative Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
(Jessica Kingsley, 2001)

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