A family court judge has published a recent judgment he handed down to highlight the success of the Resolutions Model in reuniting parents with their children in child protection cases.

Judge Baker, who oversaw the case, J (A Child) (Resolutions Model), said he wanted to raise awareness of the Resolutions Model of risk assessment in cases where parents disagree with findings that they caused injuries to their child.

Lancashire County Council had made an application for a care order for Jane (not the child’s real name) the day she was born after the court had found that the parents’ first child, Amber (not the child’s real name) had suffered non accidental injuries which it believed had been caused by the parents.

However, Judge Baker said the parents may be able to care for Jane using their family and support network to build a protective and supportive ring around Jane to ensure her safety.

The judge approved a plan in which Jane and her mother Beverley were supervised when together, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, following the mother separating from the father.

The plan saw five family members and a close family friend working in shifts, with small periods of unsupervised contact being gradually introduced into the routine.

The periods were extended, and family members’ roles in supporting Jane’s health and safety were revised through planned and unplanned observations and family meetings, developed in cooperation with local authority staff.

The judge congratulated Lancashire County Council and the Children’s Guardian, Peter Morey, for being flexible and offering support to the family, which he said had resulted in a very strong care plan for Jane. Baker congratulated the mother, saying in the judgment that he was “very impressed” with the way she had changed.

Judge Baker said the Resolutions Model could work in cases where, “In the right set of circumstances, the fact that a parent denies causing an injury need not rule out the possibility of that parent resuming care of or involvement in the care of that child.”

Though rarely used and little known, the Resolution Approach is a model which the family courts should be increasingly implementing, as a compassionate and sophisticated way of supporting families in need.

The model is unique in that it is used to work with parents who deny causing injuries to their children and explores the possibility of returning children to parents’ care using family support networks to make sure the child is not at risk.

This recent case is not the first time the Resolutions Model has been used to great success. A case in 2017 saw parents reunited with their 2 ½ year old child following a two-year fight through the family courts. In that case, the child was taken to hospital with several injuries, and a subsequent family court hearing held that the injuries had been caused by either the mother or the father. The parents said they had not intentionally caused the injuries.

The parents’ lawyers then asked the court to implement the Resolutions Model, which provided the parents with tailored professional support and an extensive family network to help with care needs for the child. The parents engaged with the process and were reunited with their child.

It’s worth noting that local authorities and social work staff were initially hugely resistant to the use of the Model in both cases, and that the legal teams were responsible for pushing the Model through in each case.

We very much hope this is the start of a smarter, more humane approach to families in need of support, and one which should be extended not just to cases with suspected non accidental injuries, but to all cases which feature child protection concerns.

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