child protection, child protection investigation, children's rights

April 2016: Two New Books

Proactive Child Protection And Social Work9781447313878-162333-300x400

Children should not be held responsible for reporting their abuse – many will be unable to do so, and feelings of guilt are exacerbated by placing the responsibility for stopping the abuse on their shoulders (Office of the Children’s Commissioner, 2015, p84).

Proactive Child Protection and Social Work: Second Edition (Liz Davies and Nora Duckett), presents a children’s rights approach including the voices of children and survivors throughout. It is a complete re-write of the 2008 Edition with updated chapters on all forms of child abuse and crime against children. Although the book has social work in the title it has value for everyone  with interest in the effective protection of children.

Phil Frampton, careleaver, author and WhiteFlowers campaigner, has written the Forward. He says, ‘The first edition of Proactive child protection and social work became a key text for UK social work courses and reviews praised its practical relevance. This second edition strengthens a children’s rights perspective, updates research evidence and focuses in depth on the unmet, neglected protection needs of children in custody, disabled children, young carers and unaccompanied child migrants. The book also draws attention to changes in policy and political and resource reasons for gaps in the social work response as demonstrated by a wide range of case studies.

The book promotes activism and cites Stephan Hessel’s book the ‘Time for Outrage’ (2011). He stated that;

The worst possible outlook is indifference that says ‘I can’t do anything about it or I’ll get by’. Behaving like that deprives you of one of the essentials of being human; the capacity and the freedom to feel outraged.That freedom is indispensable, as is the political involvement that goes with it.…The immense gap between the very poor and the very rich never ceases to expand. This alone should arouse our commitment…They have the nerve to tell us that the state can no longer cover the costs of social programmes. Yet how can the money to continue and extend these as achievements be lacking today when the creation of wealth has grown so enormously? I want each and every one of you to have a reason to be outraged. When something outrages you, as Nazism did me that is when you become a militant, strong and engaged. You join the movement of history, and the great current of history continues to flow only thanks to each and every one of us.

Tackling Child Sexual Abuse; Radical approaches to prevention, protection and support, is a new book by Dr Sarah Nelson. I have contributed to a chapter of this book and have learnt so much from working alongside Sarah for many years. The time is absolutely right for a challenging book on this subject and who better than Sarah to write it since she wrote the ground-breaking text ‘Incest Fact or Myth’ in the 80s and has written and researched extensively on the subject since that time.

In this outspoken and challenging book, Sarah Nelson argues that progress in addressing childhood sexual abuse has been in fearful or complacent retreat and that change is urgently needed in order to prevent abuse occurring, and to better support survivors. From this starting point, she puts forward radical suggestions for new models of practice. These are designed to provide perpetrator-focussed child protection, to encourage community approaches to prevention, and to better support those who have survived abuse. As revelations of widespread child abuse continue to emerge at an unprecedented rate, this book campaigns for change, offering policy makers and practitioners solutions for new ways in tackling sexual abuse, working alongside survivors to reduce its prevalence and impact.

Both books promote the right of children to safe childhoods. It sounds obvious but the thousands of survivors coming forward now tell us that they were unprotected from the most serious crimes imaginable – many as we now know carried out ‘in plain sight’. The prevalence of child abuse is well documented yet, in comparison and despite a more recent increase, the number of children gaining protection is woefully small. Government directed policy and practice has diverted professionals from an interventionist, proactive approach to the safety of children and has emphasised prevention as an alternative approach to child protection. This approach is seriously  flawed because when fighting fires you need smoke alarms (prevention)  but also you need firefighters (protective intervention). Sarah Nelson interrogates these arguments and both books present the need for prevention and protection. It is not an either/or. Both promote an investigative, multi-agency approach to child protection which includes seeking justice for abused children through the prosecution of perpetrators.