Presentation on theme: "Building futures for our most vulnerable children What do we need to change in law, policy and practice? Professor Gillian Schofield School of Social Work,"— Presentation transcript:
Building futures for our most vulnerable children What do we need to change in law, policy and practice? Professor Gillian Schofield School of Social Work, University of East Anglia
Key themes 1.Values 2.Pathways through care and into adulthood 3.Quality of practice 4.Listening to children and involving them in decisions about their lives 5.The significance of relationships
Values What we know Politics and ideology –Child placement in care and adoption is a controversial area of policy and practice: emotive and, often, politically and ideologically driven, especially in relation to birth families. Children have rights to care and participation –But the service provided to children in need, at risk and in care and adoption varies widely between areas. Caregivers have rights to support and participation –Supporting/involving parents/carers promotes good outcomes for children, but should also be seen as a moral obligation. International comparisons: practice and values –UK is like USA in some respects (adoption from care), but also Scandinavia (long-term foster care as permanence). Different to much of Europe – less use of kinship and residential care.
Care Planning Regulations and Guidance (DfE 2010) Permanence is the framework of emotional permanence (attachment), physical permanence (stability) and legal permanence (the carer has parental responsibility for the child) which gives a child a sense of security, continuity, commitment and identity. The objective of planning for permanence is therefore to ensure that children have a secure, stable and loving family to support them through childhood and beyond. Permanence provides an underpinning framework for all social work with children and families, from family support through to adoption. (Para 2.3) NB Legal permanence? Where does long-term foster care fit? Informal kinship care? Residential care?
Pathways through care and into adulthood What we know Diverse and dynamic child population with diverse needs –Age at entry to care/current age/history of abuse and neglect –Identity and family relationships Diverse and dynamic placement options and outcomes –Type and purpose of placements may change over time Continuity and discontinuity of placements –Continuity matters, but needs to be associated with good care Systemic factors –Court processes, care planning and review –Local variation in service provision/funding
Pathways through care and into adulthood Possible questions/practical steps e.g. how can we... provide timely interventions that support families, but bring children into care when they are unsafe? ensure high quality, stable care that meets the extra needs of children who may have experienced abuse and neglect? achieve a positive, coherent sense of identity and belonging/permanence for children in all placement options? improve the way we help children to manage their birth family connections/membership, including through contact? improve support for young people’s transition into adulthood that promotes relationship continuity and interdependence?
Quality of practice What we know Social workers are diverse –in the knowledge and skills that underpin their practice/decisions –in the quality of their practice and systems for supervision/management Caregivers (e.g. birth parents, kinship carers, foster carers, adoptive parents, residential workers) are diverse –in their motivation, roles and the quality of care they provide –in the quality of training and support they receive (But what works?) Other agencies/disciplines and how they work together affect outcomes for children/the experience of caregivers e.g. – education, health, police, CPS, lawyers, judiciary Multi-agency decision making re care planning –Significant variation in how permanence options are defined/care planning decisions made e.g. LT foster care, delegation of authority.
Quality of practice Possible questions/practical steps e.g. how can we... ensure the quality of caregivers/practice with caregivers? –What aspects of recruitment, approval, training, support, and supervision could be changed/improved? –What aspects of review, measuring outcomes, inspection – locally and nationally – might improve practice? ensure the quality of professional practice with children? –How can we improve face to face work, assessment, decision making, review – and achieve our aspirations for children? ensure the quality of professional practice with birth families? –Support for birth families on edge of care/in all placements? be sure to use what works and is cost-effective?
Listening to children and involving them in decisions What we know children need and value Information – honesty and clarity about what is happening Choice – to be involved in decisions e.g. from matching with a family or placement to decorating your bedroom Belonging – to be part of the whole foster/adoptive/kin family; all parents, carers, siblings and significant others Identity – important to have a coherent sense of self; life story work; positive contact with birth family; not to feel ‘different’ because in care/adopted; to feel ‘normal’. Support – importance for children in all placements of continuity and trusting relationships with decision makers and supporters.
Listening to children and involving them in decisions Possible questions/practical steps e.g. how can we... ensure that listening to children and involving them in decision making (a longstanding legislative and practice requirement) happens in a meaningful way? have systems that promote involvement in ways that are sensitive to children’s needs and development e.g. not holding review meetings in schools; LAC reviews as a process not just a meeting? help both caregivers and social workers to understand the world of the child and children’s complex communications, when from infancy to adolescence, feelings may be expressed indirectly and through troubled behaviour?
The significance of relationships What we know – from research on outcomes and from what children say For children who have experienced abuse and neglect, their development has been harmed in the context of relationships. This harm can only be repaired in the context of new relationships. Children need a secure base in relationships. They need loving, available and sensitive caregivers, who promote troubled children’s capacity to trust and help them to become confident, competent and resilient. Family membership & a sense of belonging are also key. Beneficial close relationships are not limited to parents/caregivers – they can include extended family members, social workers, teachers, activity leaders etc.
The significance of relationships Possible questions/practical steps e.g. how can we... prioritise children’s significant relationships and give them a more central place in planning and practice? provide/promote and support relationships that offer love, stability, commitment, healing, support for achievement and family membership/a sense of belonging? ensure that these same relationships are available in all family and caregiving environments? ensure that children’s relationships with professionals are also valued?
Relationships - the golden thread Children, young people and adults who have grown up in care and adoption value relationships with people who –are always there for them –love, accept and respect them for who they are –are ambitious for them and help them to succeed –stick with them through thick and thin –are willing to go the extra mile –treat them as part of the family into adulthood. Too many children in care do not have this experience. How can we ensure that ALL children coming into care grow up in these kind of relationships?