Child Protection for the Autistic Child - A Resource
Trust "firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something."
When my son was 13, he introduced me to his friends one afternoon when I met him inside his school. ‘This is my Mum ‘ he beamed. I had’ent really understood how proud of me he was, how much he loved and trusted me until then. There were a lot of things I had’ent understood then I now realise - how courageous he was and how hard the struggle for him, how much ‘scaffolding’ he needed and how ill-equipped I was to provide it. Our relationship did’ent survive what ensued. His trust in me ebbed away as he realised how little I understood and could help him.
What I’m trying to explain is how trust underpins relationships and it is almost impossible to regain when it is lost.
When people have no trust in the structures of the state (justice, healthcare, social care, affecting adults and children) to treat us as people with rights, then it is hard to see how a society can hang together. I'm not sure that successive policymakers with a ‘small state’ or ‘no state, only individuals’ mentality, have really understand this.
This is what one judge had to say about trust in the Care system :- "The court cannot entrust the care of children to those who abuse or fail to protect them. That applies to local authorities as much as to family members. Parties must have faith in those who care for their children." http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2014/4347.html
We need to have this belief, or we would find ways of treating our own difficulties in a ‘field hospital’ kind of way or we would start to ‘risk assess’, ‘’How bad will it be, if I don’t try and get help?.Would it be worse if I looked for help, or did’ent?’’
The Chief Social Worker, an employee of the Department of Education, recently had this to say, on the subject of trust. “Our focus should be to continue building public confidence in our first-class child protection system which holds a door wide open for vulnerable children and also provides support for families.” https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-outlines-strengthened-plans-to-tackle-child-abuse#2018-03-05T16:37:03+00:00 So much about this statement is questionable from my perspective. Why 'child protection' (rescue narrative) not 'child welfare' ( might need to address issues around poverty and injustice affecting children) and 'first class' - (on what basis?) and why focus on " public confidence", (Is this a reference to The Sun and The Mail newspapers?) surely families who need the service should have confidence in it?
I had been searching for it but had'ent known that I had. (Bear in mind I'm just a parent, grappling with something outside my own expertise) When I read it I suddenly understood so much that had been puzzling me for some time including why services interact with families very differently in different countries (I’d beenaware of the difference, just had no understanding of the reason for it – was it money or a different approach and if so what were the pros and cons given that nothing is perfect?), I recommend reading the paper - it is brief and straightforward leading swiftly from study to findings. There is little discussion of the merits, drawbacks or indeed financial costs of each approach as is to be expected from such a short paper on such a big subject.
It concludes by listing the four different models of interaction between professionals and other professionals and children/families in the five study nations.
The English/Welsh model was powerfully summed up as :- ‘In England/Wales, formal guidelines acted as a primary and foremost frame of reference. Information sharing between professionals was a priority in measures to secure protection. The importance of intuition, ethical implications, and the involvement of family members were only referred to occasionally. Relationships and conversations between professionals, at times, seemed to supersede engagement with children and parents. Preventing the worst became the primary consideration in this guideline‐driven system. Partly, it seemed as if the heart of social work had atrophied.’
Given the title of the study, that refers to 'trustful relationships' and without saying so in quite those words it effectively concluded that the English/Welsh child protection system placed no value on trustful relationships between professionals and families. I have personally experienced this approach again and again. There is 'the rule' that has to be followed as in:- ''I've been told (by someone that you will never meet) that I must not....'' The meetings I've not been invited to are legion and I've also experienced the ultimate insult, having professionals (again that I will never meet because they are very busy and important people, unlike me?) leave a meeting before I'd arrived and after all decisions had been made. I've also heard social workers say to other child protection professionals in rooms where I'm an interloper, "Social workers need time with families because there may be neglect and it may take time to collect evidence of this". Really , so that is why social workers need time with families...to collect evidence of neglect, not in order to use their skills and resources to help a family stay together?
I think it is fair to say that the authors of this paper are describing a 'child protection' system that you might reasonably expect to want to protect your family from. It also sometimes seems that if every professional followed every 'child protection' guideline in all instances every child in the country would be in care including the children of 'child protection professionals' and policy-makers themselves.
Can the English/Welsh system be changed for the better? The era of professionals talking among themselves, working to guidelines in a mechanistic way not with people who need help, is long past its sell-by date but what will replace it?
I personally have difficulty trusting anyone who is not 100% committed to involving families in a process of change and design of services.
That is the thing about trust - it needs to be earned.