Children and Parent Participation in Child Protection Conferences: A Study in One English Local Authority

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Muench, Kerry ; Diaz, Clive ; Wright, Rebecca (2017)

The overall purpose of a child protection conference is to safeguard children. The conferences are multi-agency meetings that aim to ensure children's safety, promote children's health and development, and identify when a child is at continuing risk of significant harm. Law and policies in the United Kingdom highlight that parents and children should be involved in this process and that their wishes and feelings should be listened to and heard by professionals, yet several research studies show that this is not happening. This study also explores how much parents, children and young people understand about the purpose of child protection conferences and whether they feel actively involved in them. Twenty-three children and 26 corresponding parents were interviewed, all of whom are currently going through the child protection process and have children subject to a child protection plan. The ages of children interviewed were between eight and 18 years; all children were still living at home with at least one parent. This study concludes that children and young people's understanding of child protection conferences and their participation within them is minimal, highlighting that the methods used to engage children in this process are largely ineffective. Most parents felt unsupported throughout the child protection process and the majority did not find their social workers helpful, which could increase the likelihood of disengagement and may inhibit the cycle of change. Similar research studies conclude comparable results, yet practice within the child protection system does not seem to be developing in terms of improving service user participation.
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