I was asked by a group of Social Workers last week "how should we be tackling childhood neglect?" "How do we intervene effectively at an early stage so that the impact of neglect does not get compounded?"
Those are all great questions which are addressed in my ebook Tackling Childhood Neglect. To get a free PDF copy go to my website or if you prefer the Kindle version it is available on Amazon.
Meanwhile here are four really important steps to successfully intervening in families where neglect is a feature.
Build rapport with the parents and the children. Understand the family's model of the world. What are their beliefs? What do they really want for their child and family. How would they like us to help? From the outset communicate concerns in a way in which the parents can hear them and clearly explain what needs to happen for us to feel that the children are safer. Is it that the child has to weigh more, if so how much? Is it that the home itself and the children's clothes are not clean and there needs to be a drastic improvement in cleanliness? When the unmet needs have been clearly articulated, workers have to demonstrate a commitment to work collaboratively with parents through an agreed contract and with a defined timescale.
Complete a proportionate assessment. Initial assessments can take a few hours or a few days and should be undertaken collaboratively with other involved agencies. The importance thing is that it must be child focused and be proportionate to the situation. In neglect scenarios, intervention should be immediate, based on an early agreement about the core issues and their impact on the children.
Create a realistic plan with specific actions and agreed outcomes. The plan should be time-lined and both sides must be held to account. Outcome measurements is essential. Circumstances have to improve for the children in a measurable and evidenced way. This might include; the house is cleaner, there is evidence of regular an appropriate meals; school attendance has improved significantly; appointments have been kept and treatment followed through; children are reported by other professionals as happier. It is critical that we listen to children and provide them with a safe space to tell us what is happening, what they want to happen and how we ca help them achieve it.
Take timely action to arrange alternative care for children when plans are not followed through. We expect children to disclose with words yet sometimes they do not have the vocabulary to articulate their experiences. Children need us to hear with their eyes as well as our ears and see things through their lens. There needs to be consequences when things do not improve. A child in foster care provided a salutary lesson recently when she said, 'When social workers say they are going to do something - they need to do it - otherwise its just an idle threat'.
For more information on these and other strategies, as well as exercises to assist with decision making in current neglect cases, download my audiobook for free here: