Hopes and fears

Things that parents say do not help

  • Big, intimidating case conferences with lots of professionals
    whose job titles make them sound more important than the
  • Parents and young people feeling confused about what is
    happening, or feeling that everyone is talking above them.
  • An unfriendly and uncomfortable physical environment.
  • Parents not feeling listened to, or believing that their point
    of view was misunderstood.
  • Medical staff not consulting or keeping parents informed, and
    patronising them.
  • Some found the initial visit by the social worker was a very
    negative experience. One parent felt she was being co-operative but
    the social worker was very forceful. This set the tone for
    interactions between social services and the family.
  • One father said he felt like “the baddy”, and that support was
    available for the mother and child but not for him.
  • Another said meetings and information were often missed because
    he couldn’t read the letters sent to his house.

Things that parents say helped them

  • Police explaining the details of the injury so that the parent
    can think about how it could have been caused.
  • Social workers explaining the child protection register before
    the case conference.
  • Support offered under the child protection plan being continued
    after de-registration.
  • Financial support to get to meetings.
  • Positive feedback to the parents about how they were doing was
    not believed until it was put in writing.
  • Core groups are smaller and easier to talk in. Minuting core
    groups is useful for reminding people what they had to do.

Bad things parents say about registration

  • Pressure on relationships, because one parent feels blamed for
    the injury and registration.
  • Feeling powerless, which sometimes led to hopelessness.
  • Young people feeling personally responsible for a parent’s
    reaction to registration.
  • Parents thinking that decisions have already been made and what
    they say in a conference doesn’t make any difference.
  • Fear of social services taking a child away.
  • The whole experience is an ordeal for parents.

Good things parents said about registration

  • The register was a support at a time of crisis.
  • Despite lots of negative feelings about the register, parents
    were able to accept that it needed to happen.
  • The negative affects of the register don’t last long after
  • The experience of the meetings helped a young person develop
    their confidence in speaking out about their feelings.
  • The opportunity to talk things through was helpful.
  • One parent who had taken responsibility for injuring the child
    felt his feelings of aggression had been reduced by that
  • Parents felt a greater trust of social services and an
    increased willingness to contact them in the future if needed.

Parents’ comments

“I believe my child shouldn’t have been on the child protection
register, but the professionals wanted to keep an eye on my child
and the dad. I could see why, but it was a slap in the face for me.
Now it is over, I’m still angry and I don’t know that they’ve done
me any good, but it is finished and I’ve still got my child, so I
suppose that’s good.”

“The social worker is there to help and support you, even though
it might not feel like that all the time! I was very confused and
didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who to trust. Looking back,
it’s not such a big intrusion on your life and can have some

“It felt like everyone was talking down to me and not listening
to what I had to say. All the professionals knew what to do and I
didn’t. At the conference, it felt like everyone had already made
their decision and what I said didn’t make any difference. After
it, I got a new social worker and things became better. The groups
were smaller and I got more chance to speak up, and I was allowed
to have a support person at meetings.”

“I thought, ‘It’s not fair’ – I know people who do worse to
their kids and they’re not on the child protection register. My
health visitor reported me to social services before I could
explain. I never got on with my health visitor after that but I
liked my social worker. She explained everything to me. I learned a
lot and I got a nursery place for my child. My friends and family
knew I was a good parent and being on the register didn’t stop them
from thinking that.”

“My advice would be, don’t fight the system – it makes it a lot
worse if you do. The professionals are the ones with the power.
There is no choice but to co-operate unless you want to make things
worse. Make sure you have your say because you do know what’s

“My health visitor said that it’s because they don’t want to
take my child away and the child protection register is giving us
another chance, so I thought it was a good thing. But at first it’s
really awful to think people can tell you what to do with your
kids. I was taking my child to the doctor anytime there was even a
sniffle, just to prove I was doing the right thing.”

“I was worried about how my kids would feel about it, and if
their friends would find out at school. They were upset and thought
the social worker was just poking their nose in. But their friends
didn’t find out so that’s the main thing.”

“I did learn things from it. I learned how to speak up for
myself more and I got more support from the health visitor. It felt
bad, but I knew it needed to happen.”

“I was scared they were going to take my child away. I felt like
I didn’t want to get close to her because of that. The case
conference was scary and me and my boyfriend split up. But when the
assessment started, everything came out in the open and it was good
to talk. It makes you think about what you do with your kids. I
trust people more now and feel more confident. My boyfriend’s back
and we’re just getting on with it.”

Zoe Davidson is a children’s guardian based in Bradford.
She was formerly principal officer, child protection, Kirklees

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