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Recognising Children at Risk (Child Protection) | Case Study

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 2810 words Published: 19th Jul 2018

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A given scenario on Recognising Children at Risk (Child Protection). The essay should be based on a given scenario, which has been divided into three sections with question prompts at the end of each section which should assist the essay’s focus.

Section One

Stephen and Eileen have been together for seven years and have two children aged five and eleven months. Eileen also has a daughter aged ten from a previous relationship. The family seemed to function quite well until Stephen lost his job a year ago. He has been unable to find other employment and has been drinking heavily, this means that the family have financial worries and this impacts on family relationships. Eileen has recently found a part-time job and leaves the baby with Stephen. In light of his drinking problems, his being left in sole charge of a very young child would, in itself, be an area for concern. The neighbour’s concern was justified with regard to children she was used to seeing on a regular basis. Both the teacher and the school nurse have concerns with regard to the children’s wellbeing. The rows and screaming that the woman overheard tend to suggest that there is violence in the home and it is well documented that this has a deleterious effect on children and their behaviour.

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The police referred the neighbour’s concerns over the Drake/Harris family and it thus warrants an initial assessment, which should take place within seven days of the original referral. An initial assessment would involve the social worker visiting the family home and seeking permission to speak with staff at the school, the Health Visitor , and the family’s G.P. as well as the family themselves. This might also involve a request for the children to be examined by the family doctor and a report made for Social Services. There would need to be some kind of assessment as to the extent of violence in the family and how that is affecting the family’s wellbeing. It is often a good idea to see how the children respond to questions regarding what has been happening at home recently. At the same time the Social Worker might want to establish that the family are receiving all the benefits they are entitled to while the man is unemployed. I think it would also be appropriate that if the mother is to continue working then alternative arrangements need to be made for the baby’s care while she is at work. Once these initial elements are addressed then a multi-agency case conference needs to be convened in order to assess what might be the best way forward for the whole family. This would usually consist of the Social Worker his/her immediate superior, someone from the child protection scheme, the police (as the referral was made by them) teacher, health visitor and the parents.

Eileen denies that her partner inflicted the bruising noted on her arms and legs and insists that she fell down the stairs. This is a common response by women subjected to domestic violence. The father has a problem with alcohol and is also known to indulge in violent outbursts and this raises serious concerns as to whether he is a suitable person to be left in charge of an eleven month old baby. Clearly the family is in need of further support under the terms of the 1989 Act and a full multi-agency assessment of those needs is required. Stephen sees this as interfering and insists that his only problems are lack of work and money. Eileen is more compliant and agrees to visit the GP with the children.

Although the GP has few concerns with regard to the children’s wellbeing other than the fact that they have lost some weight and the baby is not gaining weight at the rate expected, there are some concerns that Eileen might be suffering from depression. Staff at the school report that there are some concerns over the children’s behaviour which has altered considerably over the past few months. Jack in particular has been displaying behaviour that is normally associated with a two or three year old, doing anything to attract attention. This was also noted at the initial assessment when Jack was jumping all over the place. His reception class teacher also reported that she had noticed a lack of concentration in class. Cathy and Jack were clearly unhappy with the situation at home and with any attempt to question them about what was happening. It might be that they were simply trying to protect their parent’s privacy but Cathy’s reluctance to talk about the bruises she received and what has been going on raises concerns as to whether Stephen’s violence is restricted to their mother or whether it extends to the children. It is also of concern that a previously lively ten year old should now be withdrawn. This kind of withdrawal is a common occurrence among children who witness violence in the home and those who have worked with children witnessing domestic violence (Abbott & Wallace, 1997).

Section Two

A week after the initial visit the Health Visitor has reported that she has some concerns over the baby’s health and is also concerned for Eileen who has just discovered that she is pregnant with a fourth child and has bruising to her face. Eileen has admitted to the Health Visitor that Stephen hit her during a row over money she agrees to again visit the GP with Lucy. The doctor did not examine Eileen but noted that the baby Lucy had some bruising on her arm which her mother said had been caused by her brother Jack throwing a toy. This is new information and actually requires a further assessment of the family’s needs. Agencies, both statutory and non-statutory, have a duty with respect to safeguarding children. This was highlighted in research evidence (1995) and further documented in the Department of Health 1999 Report Working together to safeguard children. Guidance has tended to be clearer and more précised in accordance with Lord Laming’s recommendations over the Victoria Climbie enquiry (Laming, 2003). A whole series of measures have since been put in place to target families such as the Drake/Harris’s. The Joint Chief Inspector’s Report, Safeguarding children (2002) defines safeguarding children and their families in the following way:

  • All agencies working with children, young people and their families take all reasonable measures to ensure that the risks of harm to children’s welfare are minimized, and
  • where there are concerns about children and young people’s welfare, all agencies take all appropriate action to address those concerns, working to agreed local policies and procedures in full partnership with other local agencies.

Under section 17 of the 1989 Children’s Act the authority has a duty to treat the Drake/Harris children as children in need. This means that the family will need some service provision in order to ease the immediate strain and to give better prospects for the children’s emotional, physical and social development.

Eileen has admitted to having suffered violence at the hands of her partner and is now concerned because she is pregnant with another child. The Health Visitor suggests a termination but as yet it is not clear whether Eileen is going to take this route. While there is no immediate reason to suspect that Lucy is being ill treated there is some concern that she is left in the care of her father for two afternoons a week while her mother is working. It is recommended that alternative care be found for Lucy. Under Section 18 (1) of the 1989 Act it may be possible to arrange nursery care for those afternoons.[1]

At the present time there are a number of concerns associated with this family. The concern for Lucy has already been expressed and although it is not clear that either her or the other two children have suffered violence they are certainly affected by the situation. In view of this, and the husband’s resistance to outsider involvement it may be necessary to apply to the Courts for a Child Assessment Order. It seems fairly clear that the family does need some support during this crisis and that without such support the children will be at risk of harm due to a number of factors.The family circumstances i.e. unemployed father and significant financial problems, indicate that the children’s development (even without domestic violence) is liable to suffer. Sidebotham, et al’s (2002) study of parents and children and children on the At Risk Register, found that in homes where there was unemployment and financial deprivation children ran a greater risk of being abused. The researchers found a clear link between social and economic deprivation and the risk of abuse.

The Health Visitor phones the next week and explains that Eileen came into the surgery that morning in a terrible state as she thinks she is pregnant again. The health visitor noticed that baby Lucy appeared unwell again, with a bad cold and problems breathing and that there was bruising on the left side of Eileen’s face and over her right shoulder. When the HV asked her about the bruising, Eileen admitted that Stephen had hit her during a row the night before. She claimed that Stephen had been full of remorse and promised to make amends and did not want the HV to tell anyone else about it. Eileen was still worried about how he would take the news that she is pregnant again. The Health Visitor had advised Eileen about the possibilities of a termination of the pregnancy and suggested that she make an appointment to discuss this with the GP and to check her injuries and Lucy’s chest and breathing, which seemed poor. On checking with the GP after surgery this morning the HV has discovered that he only examined Lucy and gave a prescription for medication for her cold and severe nappy rash. Eileen’s own injuries and her possible pregnancy were not discussed. The Doctor however did also notice bruising on the baby, which the mother told him had been caused by Jack, her brother, throwing a toy. The second assessment was decided over the telephone by several representatives. The family receive another visit and this time the social worker is joined by the Child Protection Officer injuries to Lucy are again questioned. Steven admitted to striking Eileen while she was holding the baby and the team decided that the injuries to Lucy were non-accidental. Concern was also expressed over her significant weight loss.

Section Three

Gardner (2002) in a study undertaken for the NSPCC found that support services could be of significant help under these circumstances and that 58% of children considered to be at risk, and had access to support services, showed significant improvement in their development after these measures were put in place. In 2001 the Government commissioned the Children in Need Census[2] which attempted to establish why children accessed children in need services, what type of provision they accessed and the costs associated with that provision. The Drake/Harris children are further at risk due to Stephen’s alcohol abuse. Harwin and Forester (2002) found that in cases where the parents misused drugs or alcohol, the children often came to the attention of Social Services as a result of concern for their safety and well being. Over 290 cases across four London Boroughs, showed that a third of those requiring long term intervention had parents with some form of substance misuse. This caused concern in a number of areas, particularly where there were children under the age of six. In the present case two of the children, Jack aged 5 and Lucy aged 11 months should be assessed as potentially being at considerable risk. It would seem that there is sufficient concern that a core assessment might be suggested at the inter-agency case conference as there is some evidence to suggest that a deeper and more comprehensive evaluation of both the family circumstances and their needs should be carried out. It is not clear how Cathy’s injuries were received and perhaps a Child Protection Plan might be considered at the Child Protection conference.

The most immediate threat, the father, has agreed to leave the house for a week. This negates the need for a care order to remove the children to a place of safety. He should receive some advice and support on how to handle his drinking. It might also be appropriate to suggest anger management. However, the father is expected to return and there is therefore a need to place all three children on the child protection register. It would seem appropriate for both Jack and Cathy to be placed on the register under two categories, emotional abuse (due to domestic violence) and physical abuse, although in Jack’s case there is no evidence and in Cathy’s case the evidence as to how she received the injuries is unclear this is still a cause for concern. Lucy is the child that raises the most concern and it would seem appropriate that she be registered under three categories, emotional abuse, physical abuse and neglect. This last is due to her significant weight loss, coupled with nappy rash which should have been seen by a doctor before the referral. Sometimes when domestic violence is an issue children become neglected because the mother is so engrossed with dealing with the violence and her own feelings that she does not always take sufficient notice of what is happening to her children (Dobash and Dobash, 1992). It might also be helpful if the family were assigned a regular family support worker who could keep an eye on the children’s development and lend support with baby until the mother was feeling better. She also needs to be given information regarding refuges and domestic violence issues in case the husband returns and is again violent.

All of the above could be problematic, many families are frightened when they hear about the child protection register and think that children remain on it. The mother would need to be reassured that when a suitable time has elapsed and the team are convinced the children are no longer at risk then they can be de-registered. Whether the father will agree to alcohol counseling and anger management is not known at this moment and if he refuses this could become quite problematic. It is for this reason that it seems appropriate to give the mother advice over what she can do to avoid the same scenario. The parenting support might also be objected but, if necessary, this can be enforced by a court order.

The school would need to be informed as to the progress of the family. The Health Visitor should continue visiting regularly and report any problem areas to the GP and to the social worker. If the father is compliant and either stays out of the family home or obtains the help outlined above then there should be no need for further police involvement or for a care order to be requested. I can see no areas where there might be conflict between the various agencies with regard to this protection plan.


Abbott and Wallace (1997) An Introduction to Sociology, Feminist Perspectives Routledge, London.

Department of Health (1999) Working Together to Safeguard Children: A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children HMSO.

Department of Health (2000) Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families The Stationary office.

Department of Health (2000) Assessing Children in Need and their Families The Stationary Office

Dobash, R and Dobash, R (1992) Women, Violence & Social Change, Routledge, London & New York

Gardner, R. 2002 Supporting Families: L Child Protection in the Community Chichester Valley

Harwin J. and Forester, D. 2002 Parental Substance Misuse and Child Welfare: A study of social work with families in which parents misuse drugs or alcohol Department of Health

Sidebotham, P. et al “Children at Risk of maltreatment in Children of the Nineties: deprivation, class and social networks in a UK sample” Child Abuse 26 (12) pp 1243-1259

Wilson, K. and James, A. (Eds) (1995) The Child Protection Handbook, Bailliere Tindall.


[1] http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1989/Ukpga_19890041_en_6.htm#mdiv43 Crown Copyright

[2] http://www.dfes.gov.uk/publications/childrenactreport/docs/DfES-Childrens Act.pdf


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