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“Everybody needs to know why we do what we do!”

We talked with Carla Thomas from England to hear about her experiences in Child Protection processes and with MAPChiPP. She represents Refocus on Practice, one of our partners from UK. Carla was motivated to join MAPChiPP because of her interest “to experience how child protection is understood and managed in other neighbouring countries, and to develop resources that we can share and utilise, to try and implement a common approach within the different cultural and political context”. When asked about her employment, Carla tells us about her engagement in various training activities:

Carla: I work three days a week for a Local Safeguarding Children Board in South West London as their multi-agency Child Protection and Children Safeguarding training co-ordinator. I freelance for a number of training agencies to deliver different levels of child protection training to multi-agency audiences of professionals involved in working with children and families. I also have my own training and consultancy company which specialises in the development and delivery of child protection training.

  • Interviewer: What do you like about working in Child Protection?

I like the challenges involved in working alongside children and young people who may be in need or at risk. And how you reach an understanding of theirs and their families’ history and experiences. Than you can try to enable change.

“I am fortunate to have had many positive experiences of multi-disciplinary work in child protection.”

  • We from MAPChiPP think it’s important to promote and facilitate multi-disciplinarity in Child Protection processes. What has been your most positive experience with multi-disciplinarity in Child Protection so far? Have you been involved in a case in which multi-disciplinarity worked particularly well?

I am fortunate to have had many positive experiences of multi-disciplinary work in child protection. As a social worker, perhaps one of my most memorable positive experience was when we considered the possibility of keeping a baby born with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome with his mother. I co-ordinated a strictly monitor assessment which involved mum, dad, extended family, paediatricians, paediatric dieticians, physiotherapist and speech and language therapist, a General Practitioner, a Health Visitor, Foster Carer, an Adult Substance Misuse Worker and Police. The plan and the monitoring of the baby and what was expected by mum and in terms of professional’s roles was very clearly laid out, and everyone, including the family were very clear about the expected outcomes and what needed to be achieved.

“They need to know why we do what we do.”

  • This case went well because of very clear expectations, consequences and a lot of sharing information. Was it also a case where Participation played a big role?

Naturally. No plan, no intervention can be achieved without the participation of the children and their families. Their roles are vital in EVERY case. Their views and wishes need to be ascertained from the onset as does their assessment of risk. Every intervention needs to be done with their participation and understanding. Because they need to know why we do what we do, what are the expected outcomes that would keep the child safe and what the outcomes of not achieving this will be.

“Not one tool will complete an assessment!”

  • You have been working in Child Protection for 35 years. From your experience, can you do any recommendations on tools for the work in Child Protection?

Not one tool will complete an assessment! Practitioners need to be equipped with a range of tools and use their professional judgement in deciding which, at any one time, may be the one that would best support them in gathering the right and relevant information and to enable children and their families to have their stories, wishes and views heard. A good map to start making sense of each child and young person’s developmental needs, their parents’ capacity to meet those needs, and family and environmental factors which may increase vulnerabilities or strengths, is the Assessment Framework triangle. But I wouldn’t call it a tool.

There are many tools. I’d recommend the HOME Inventory. It is a semi structured interview based on a day in a life of the child. There are four for children at different age groups between the age of zero and fourteen and twelve inventories adapted to different forms of disability. It zooms in in the specific experiences of children. It highlights strengths and difficulties in the main carer’s capacity to meet those needs. And it helps in identifying areas of interventions and in measuring outcomes.

Then there’s the Family Pack of Questionnaires and Scales. Very easy to administer and use. They focus on specific areas of difficulties and needs – Adult Wellbeing, Adolescent Wellbeing, Home conditions, Family Activities etc. They help identifying areas of needs and encourage discussion and assists the gathering of evidence based information. Thus, they give respondents a voice.

But there are many others. Which is important, because one tool just won’t do the job.

  • We all have dreams. Imagine, you are granted one wish. How would you use this wish to improve Child Protection processes?

At this point in my life my dream is probably retiring back to my home in Italy! (laughing) It would be nice to think that children could all be safe, but it would be unrealistic. … My dream I suppose would be for professionals to develop better understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities and to work better together to support families and safeguard children.

  • Thank you for the interview.