BBC1, episode five (of six),

    14 December 2004, 10.35pm

    Star Rating: 4/5

    This was another powerful episode about social work in Bristol
    children’s services. The programme highlighted the stress placed on
    workers dealing with child abuse, writes Melanie Howes.

    The theme of this episode was denial by parents of their
    children’s injuries and abuse. Jo, a hospital social worker, was
    faced with Daniel, a seven-year-old boy with a fractured wrist.
    Neither parent seemed concerned about his injury. Without a family
    history or support from her back-up team, Jo could not bring the
    case to a satisfactory conclusion.

    Jo’s second case was a shaken baby who died in the hospital. The
    baby had been left in the care of his father, a schedule one
    offender, by the mother. The trauma of the situation placed a huge
    weight on Jo’s shoulders.
    We also saw a four-year-old boy living in squalor with his parents.
    The family was helped by Frances, a social worker in the community
    team. The antagonistic attitude and verbal abuse of the parents
    towards Frances and the difficulties in finding a suitable
    placement complicated the process of meeting the boy’s needs.

    The programme highlighted that behind every abused child there
    is likely to be a history of abuse, neglect, domestic violence and
    needy parents. One was left thinking that, apart from the distress
    and pain children face, the trauma of dealing with child abuse
    inevitably leaves workers vulnerable to stress and burnout.

    Melanie Howes is a social worker for children’s
    services, Cornwall Council.

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