Child visibility in cases of chronic neglect: implications for social work practice

Journal article citation:
British Journal of Social Work, 45(5), 2015, pp.1379-1394.
Oxford University Press

Research studies and serious case reviews following child deaths often criticise social work practitioners for failing to maintain a focus on the child. This paper draws on findings from a qualitative study of child protection planning in cases of chronic child neglect to increase understanding as to why this is the case. Four key themes that appear to affect social work practice are explored. These are: generalised assessments prior to conference; a narrow interpretation of the identity of a child; superficial engagement by professionals with the wishes and feelings of the child throughout the planning process; a lack of awareness of the different needs of siblings in large families; and parenting interventions considered in a vacuum. The authors argue that part of the reason social workers have found child-centred practice in these cases difficult is a consequence of the way in which the neglected child appears to be constructed. They conclude by considering how the latest English government guidance Working Together at one level exacerbates the issue whilst also providing opportunities for innovative practice designed to focus on the daily lived experience of the child. (Publisher abstract)

Subject terms:
care planning, case conferences, child-centred approach, child neglect, social workers;
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