Welcome to another week, and our question for you this time is more of a crowd sourcing exercise, rather than a straightforward conundrum.

Researching Reform has spent almost ten years researching and producing materials for the reformation of the family justice system and there are some things which come up time and again as obvious solutions to preventing poor outcomes for children. We list below a few of them, and we’d love to hear your thoughts on them and your vision for a better child focused family justice system.

Ground Zero – Removing The Social Work Stigma

  • Demanding and challenging degrees for social work – setting the bar high
  • Selecting social work candidates who are vocational/ passionate about children and exhibit natural talent or strong academic qualifications
  • Selecting individuals within social work practices who are exceptional and allowing them to lead the profession. And by exceptional, we mean loved and treasured by the people they care for.
  • Campaigns within social work organisations to highlight the work and all its variations – no PR exercises, just honest, earthy messages about the real value of social work when done properly.

Building Better Bodies – Preparing the Work Force For Child Welfare Work

  • Cutting edge seminars and frequently updated materials for all agencies in the field
  • Small Management Teams whose only job is to ensure all materials are read and understood and to offer on the spot advice and facilitate fast, effective responses to service users’ queries.
  • Breaking down barriers between organisations – building trust within and amongst each agency (police, social work, medical etc).
  • Shifting the culture away from judgment as the driving force in decision-making, to a service oriented ethos which seeks to evaluate rather than adjudicate.

Kids and the Courts – Evolving The Justice System 

  • Tech: ensure each court-house is equipped with basic technology – audio recording equipment, wi-fi, digital files, projectors…
  • Select judges who are compassionate, intelligent, and most importantly, understand children
  • Tougher training for judges – child abuse sign spotting, child development, the latest data and research in child welfare. Mandatory reading and updating in this field every month for each family law judge.
  • Judges must read every page in every file they are given. Failure to do so should result in a retrial/ fresh hearing. As final arbiters of a case, the least they should do is read the contents of every file.

Pride and Prejudice – Having The Courage To Challenge Norms

  • Each agency should have a board of newly qualified team members who are able to voice and record any flaws they see in the agencies they work in, without fear of reprisal. Those reports should be given to Senior Management and published on a public government website.
  • Every agency should have access to support services for team members, to ensure personal biases are not preventing teams from assessing service users fairly, and to give team members counselling as and when they need it.
  • Finally, the justice system needs to start thinking about its work with pride. Protecting children and ensuring they are safe, loved and nourished is one of the most important jobs any one can do. It’s time the system thought so too, and not just a few inside the system – everyone.

So what do you think? Did we miss anything out? Do you disagree with our thoughts?

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