This report is prepared for the use of a Child Protection Case Conference for the five members of the Jones family. The Jones family consists of Mark (25) And Sue (21) and their three children John (6), Emma (4) and David who is just 3 weeks old. The conference is being held to consider the extent to which the needs of John, Emma and David are being met, as also the risks to which they are exposed.
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With the Child Protection Conference being a meeting between the parents of children and the people from different agencies who know the family, this report aims to provide a brief detail of the family scenario and a reflective commentary on the family circumstances, suitably supported by the theoretical and practical knowledge of the author on the risks faced by the children and the framework chosen for such risk assessment.
This introductory section is followed by a brief overview of the case, a reflective commentary and finally a summative section.
2. Brief Case Details
The appendix to this report provides details about the family scenario and can be accessed by users of this report. To state very briefly, the Jones family has three children. John, the eldest child suffers from speech delays and is exhibiting behavioural difficulties at home and school. He demands individual attention and has tendencies for uncontrollable anger and physical violence with children as well as grownups. He has also exhibited delinquent behaviour and has been reported for shock lifting. Emma, the second child is good natured, loves going to school, has been assessed to be developmentally advanced and loves her father. David, the newly born is a premature child and is not in the best of health. It is difficult to feed him and he cries often. Mark Jones the father has a history of youth offence, criminal behaviour and domestic abuse. He has grown up in poor social and economic circumstances and is now working as a driver of heavy vehicles, a job that often keeps him away from home. Sue the mother, had her first child when she was 15 and suffered from post natal depression. Not in the best of health and having suffered from domestic abuse, she finds it difficult to take care of her three children. Whilst she comes from an affluent background, she has little contact with her parents, who disapprove of Mark.
3. Reflective Commentary
Caring and protecting children is now at the very core of the social work system of the UK (Cleaver, 2004, p 14). Whilst the importance of protecting, nurturing and nourishing children and the need to provide them with appropriate environments for achievement of physical, emotional and mental development has always been felt to be important by policy makers in the UK, a number of episodes that have taken place over the years show that children continue to be exposed to various dangerous and need suitable protection. The deaths of Victoria Climbie and Aliyah Ismail in 2000 and 1998 (BBC News, 2005, p 1) created enormous media uproar and public outrage and led to numerous legal and policy measures that aimed to protect and safeguard children (Norton, 1999, p 1). The recent deaths of Baby Peter and Khyra Ishaq, who died in terrible circumstances, the first on account of violence at the home (Duncan, et al, 2008, p 1) and the second from starvation, revealed that children continue to be in danger and in need of protection and safety, both in and out of their households (Carter, 2010, p 1). Appendix 2 provides horrifying details on a number of children who experienced violence that resulted in serious injury and even death.
I have, in these circumstances tried to synthesise the various legal and policy measures that are available in the UK for protection and safety of children as well as assessment of the risks to which they are exposed, for the consideration of the Child Protection Conference on the needs of the children of the Jones Family. The legislative framework for child protection in England and Wales is provided by the Children Act 1989, further amended by the Children Act 2004 (NSPCC, 2010b, p 4). The act defines harm as ill treatment or impairment of physical or mental health or physical, emotional, social, intellectual or behavioural development. The act also enshrines important principles. The paramountcy principle implies that the child’s welfare should be paramount for decisions on his or her upbringing. The wishes and feelings of children should also be ascertained before the passing of any order (NSPCC, 2010b, p 4). All efforts should be made for preservation of the home and family links of children. The law also underlines the importance of parental responsibility in the bringing up of children (NSPCC, 2010b, p 4). A number of other acts like the Children and Young Persons Act 2008 and the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 and the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 also lay down the law on protection of children in different circumstances (NSPCC, 2010b, p 4).
Apart from extensive legislation for safeguarding and protecting children, the government has introduced a series of policy measures after the death of Victoria Climbie and the publication of the Laming Report in 2003 (Department of Health, 2003, p 7). The Every Child Matters Programme details governmental policy for ensuring the safety, nourishment, growth and development of all children in the country (Department for Educationâ€¦, 2005, p 4). The guidance “Working Together to Safeguard Children: a Guide to Inter-Agency Working to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children” defines child abuse and neglect and provides guidance on the action that agencies should take to protect children. The “Framework for the Assessment of Children in need and their Families” provides guidance to professionals to identify children in need and ascertain the best possible ways of helping such children and their families (NSPCC, 2010a, p 3).
The children in the Jones family are being currently challenged by difficult circumstances. Mark, the father has a job that keeps him away from home for long periods and he is thus not really able to help in household work or bringing up the children, except by financial support. He has a history of criminality and domestic violence. Even though it should be considered that he is undergoing an anger management programme in order to overcome his emotional instability. Sue, the mother is just 21 and has already had three children. She also has a history of post natal depression, which could possibly surface again after the birth of David, the youngest child who is not even a month old. Coming from an affluent family, with whom she is estranged for some years, she is obviously unused to the very difficult family circumstances in which she is placed and the responsibilities of a mother of three children. The chances of all three children being neglected is very high in these circumstances, where the father is not at home most of the time and is trying to overcome his emotional instability and aggressive behaviour and the mother is prone to depression, physically tired and worn out and has been burdened with the responsibilities of caring for and bringing up three young children.
The three children in the family face the real danger of physical and emotional neglect. Such neglect could specifically harm their physical, emotional and cognitive wellbeing and development, affect their performance at school, expose them to dangers of under nourishment and illness and severely affect their life chances (Howe, 2005, p 31). Neglected children are also more prone to truant behaviour and substance abuse. John the eldest child already suffers from speech problems, attachment disorders, attention seeking behavioural problems, uncontrolled anger and tendencies for violence. Such a situation could have arisen because of attention deficits in his early childhood years and greater attention being given to his younger sister by his father. John now poses a serious physical threat to his two younger siblings because of his rage and violent disposition. Emma and David are open to the risks of neglect, as well as physical harm. Whilst Emma is the favourite of the family and shares very good relationships with her parents and may not therefore be exposed to neglect, the condition of the youngest child David is precarious. A premature child who is given to suffering from colic, David needs extra care, support and sustenance, which may clearly be beyond the ability and capacity of Sue, in her frame physical condition and her history of post natal depression. Apart from neglect, which could harm her physical and emotional development at a crucial period in her life, he also faces the threat of physical violence from John, who can well hurt him badly in a fit of rage, if his demands for attention are not met.
I feel it to be very obvious that the three children in the Jones family are at considerable risk, all three from neglect and the younger two also from violence. The GIRFEC (getting it right for every child) model provides a new approach for identification and meeting of needs of children. The model places the wellbeing of children and provides a common framework for assessment, planning and intervention across all agencies (Lamey & Rattray, 2009, p 2). Whilst the GIRFEC is a comprehensive model, it is specifically focused on taking the whole child approach, placing the child at the centre and keeping children emotionally and physically safe. Its ambit is thus broader than mere child protection (Lamey & Rattray, 2009, p 2). It adopts a holistic view and an evidence based approach, wherein the participation and opinions of the child and parents are important for good outcomes. The model has three important components, namely the Wellbeing Indicators, My Word Triangle and the Resilience Matrix, which can be used both separately and together for finding the best solution for children in need (Lamey & Rattray, 2009, p 2). The My Word Triangle in particular provides guidance to social workers on what children need from people who look after them. These include (a) everyday care and help, (b) keeping the child safe and (c) being there for the child. These three issues are specifically important for considering the circumstances of the three children of the Jones family (Lamey & Rattray, 2009, p 2).
4. Summary and Conclusion
This report has been prepared for the Child Protection Case Conference to consider the needs of the children of the Jones family, the extent to which they are being met and what more needs to be done to ensure the safety, development and growth of these children. Assessment of risk and ensuring safety of children is a vital element of current social work theory and practice in the UK. Extant legislation and programmes call upon social workers and other concerned agencies like the education and health services to work in close cooperation and collaboration with each other to ensure the safety and protection of children in need and at risk with the help of specific assessment frameworks, tools and processes. An application of the GIRFEC model reveals that the children of the Jones family could face difficulties on account of their parents not being able to provide adequate everyday care and help, keeping them safe and being there to ensure their physical and emotional care. These circumstances become more ominous in light of the mothers frail health and past history of post natal depression, the frequent absence of the father from home on account of his work and the violent tendencies and behavioural problems of the eldest child. The conference must consider all these circumstances in order to appropriately assess the needs of the children and the extent to which they are being met and thereafter to plan for appropriate interventionist action.
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Child Protection Case Conference Based on the Jones Scenario.
(To consider to what extent the needs of John, Emma and David are being met).
The Jones Family: background January 2010
The Jones family recently moved out of a council flat in city to small town rural area. They are struggling to pay the mortgage on their two bedrooms flat. There is no outside play area, and the flat is accessed via outside stairs.
Mark – Dad- 25 years old.
Mark has a criminal record as a youth offender. He has a history of domestic abuse and is undertaking an anger management program. He is employed as an HGV driver. He has a large extended family. Mark’s background is working class with poor socio-economic circumstances.
Sue – Mum 21years old.
At age 15 Sue had postnatal depression which was not recognized. She has a poor relationship with her own parents. They are very affluent; Sue’s mother continually expressed her disappointment in Sue when she was growing up and does not approve of her relationship with Mark. Sue has never worked she is pregnant with her third child.
John – Son (of Mark and Sue) 6 years old
John has severe attachment issues. He is exhibiting behavioural difficulties and has a significant speech delay. He has been identified as requiring Additional Support for Learning.
Emma – Daughter (of Mark and Sue) 4 years old
Emma is the favoured child. She is an easy child to care for and loves going to the nursery where it has been noted that she is developmentally advanced. She has a very good relationship with her dad.
The Scenario: sequence of events
January 2010 – John starts at the local primary having transferred from a large school in the city. He is in a composite class of 5 and 6 year olds and he is one of the oldest. John has a significant speech delay.
March 2010 – Records for John have been requested from his previous school but have still to arrive. Meanwhile, his teacher, Mrs Smith is having difficulty managing John’s behaviour. He is very demanding of individual attention and if this is not forthcoming he becomes very angry. He throws things around the classroom and over the past two weeks has hit three younger children. He has also kicked his teacher. He has been reported for shoplifting and has been grounded by his parents for bad behaviour. His anger is exacerbated because he has difficulty in communicating.
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Additional information April 2010
David was born prematurely last month, and was small for gestational age. He is difficult to feed and is very colicky. He cries a lot and is now 3 weeks old. Following the birth of David, Mary the health visitor has visited the family home to offer support and advice to Sue. Sue present as tired, flat and listless. The house is disorganised. Sue tells Mary that David is a really difficult baby to feed and that he cries constantly. Mark cannot help as his job takes him away from the family home for extended periods of time. On the rare occasions he is at home, he is tired, irritable and sleeps a lot. The situation in the home is not helped by the constant demands of John. However Emma is co-operative happy and helps her mother around the home and with the baby.
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