Welcome to another week.

April is always Child Abuse Prevention Month here at Researching Reform, and this year, we are going to share our Top Ten ‘How To’s’ which focus on stopping abuse before it starts.

  1. Economics: A functional society that wants to reduce incidents of child abuse has to be one where children get the best possible start in life. It’s not a coincidence that most ‘at risk’ children are vulnerable children long before they’re victims of abuse.
  2. Education: The vast majority of child abuse happens within a home setting, carried out at the hands of relatives or family friends. Raising awareness around the different types of abuse, why they occur and what can be done to stop these abuses is crucial.
  3. Excellence in training: The social work sector needs to start raising the bar. One of our original Bug Bears, social work courses and training sessions continue to work to a standard the sector calls the ‘good enough’ principle. Much of day to day practice though, is nowhere near good enough. Either revise the definition and content of the courses to ensure that good enough is good enough, or strive for something far more exciting: the best practice standard. If the sector gets this right, the label really won’t matter, but the results will matter to vulnerable children everywhere. (It’s also the only way this sector can rebuild its reputation. Hey, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it).
  4. Everybody Counts: From agencies working with each other and not against each other, to birth parents playing an inclusive role in an adopted child’s life wherever possible, the idea that everybody counts in the child protection ecosystem, is a huge one. If we don’t acknowledge that every individual has something important to offer, and go back and constantly revise those roles to ensure they’re working in the best interests of every child, the system will keep on failing.
  5. Ethical Practice: The system can’t ignore the fact that it is suffering under the weight of unethical behaviours and routine law breaking by professionals working in it. We have to take stock of, and revise those functions, before we can put an end to what’s become blatant defiance of policy and legislation designed to protect vulnerable children in the first place.
  6. Experts: As a minimum, the government should pass legislation that requires every practicing social worker to register with an independent regulatory body. All experts working with the family courts should also be vetted by an independent organisation tasked with checking backgrounds, qualifications and practice history.
  7. Explain Everything: Doctors and surgeons don’t expect their patients to speak the language of medicine when they advise or operate on them, and vulnerable families should not be expected to understand legalease, or be shut out from life changing decisions which affect them if they don’t. It’s time the family justice system set everything down in plain English.
  8. Equality: vulnerable families should be treated with the respect and dignity that everyone else inside the system expects to receive. We are all here to support these families, not the other way around.
  9. Evidence: A proper system for gathering evidence, filing it and ensuring that decisions are only made off the back of genuine, high quality data has to be implemented. A social worker spending 5 minutes with a child and then writing a report which is designed to send that child into care should never be allowed. We have the scientific tools at our disposal to get some truly powerful insights into what children really need, let’s use them.
  10. Efficiency: managers of every department should be required to look at their department’s working processes to see what works and what doesn’t, with the sole aim of ensuring that vulnerable children are given the time and support they need. If that form you’re being asked to fill in is completely pointless and taking up time that could be spent talking to a vulnerable child and being there for them, flag it up. The more people who join together to speak up, the more of a difference you can make.

Our question this week then, is just this: what would be on your list?