Children and young people who become involved with the child protection system are amongst the most vulnerable people in our society (Cossar et al, 2011). Actively listening and responding to children’s voices is a vital component of the professional response to abused children (Davies and Duckett, 2009, 5). The responsibility to safeguard and promote the well-being of children and young people has been part of the legal framework of the child protection system since the 1989 Children Act (Butler and Roberts, 2004, 43). Listening to the views of children and striving to understand their experiences are both fundamental to ensuring that their rights to security, support and involvement under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) are fully comprehended (Hear by right, 2009).Child protection systems are now incorporating effective methods of consulting children and young people to enable them to become involved in the assessment and child protection procedure (CPP).
The essay will explore how the CPP has shifted from protecting a child to safeguarding all of a child’s welfare and safety. I will reflect on how serious child protection case reviews have reformed government policies today. The pages that follow will reflect current research illustrating the voice of children and young people in the child protection systems, the involvement and rights they hold in the decision making process and how government legislation has incorporated anti-discriminatory values to challenge oppression and discrimination in the CPP
The chosen topic for my leaflet is the Child Protection Case Conference. I chose to write about it to prepare children and young people for the conference and to reduce the anxiety and fears they may be feeling. Research demonstrates that information is very limited for children and young people participating at conferences. Receiving good quality information before the conference will essentially help them to make informed choices on decisions affecting their lives. The leaflet describes a range of ways in which their views could be represented so that they can decide whether or not they wish to attend.
The design of the leaflet is conventional due to the nature of the topic. It is an A4 size folded leaflet that can be discreetly fitted into the child’s pocket or bag. The title of the leaflet is not attention grabbing because it is a sensitive topic; I would not want the child to feel distressed or discouraged from reading it. The language is very informative to engage the reader, and words of empowerment are highlighted in bold to captivate the reader. I tried to convey the message of professionals working in unity with the child to promote their participation in the conference. The presentation of the leaflet was designed in a question and answer format to be informative, and the writing style aimed for clarity and quality rather than an overload of information. I included one picture on the main cover to express unity and to reassure that professionals are working together to promote safety. I used a subtle green colour to reflect the mood of the topic. The leaflet presents a number of contacts to support children and young people during the conference. I provided details of Children’s Rights Officers because they are independent from social workers and other professionals and advocate the child’s rights. I felt it was important to include Children 1st because they work in partnership with children and families and campaign to change attitudes towards children. I provided details of Connexions to direct the young person if they needed advice on any other issues that may be worrying them.
Although I have mentioned on the leaflet that it can be produced in different forms, it fails to reach a diverse range of service users. It is not accessible to the needs of a child or young people who have a visual or hearing impairment. Neither is it suitable for a child or young person whose first language is not English. If I designed the leaflet again I would produce the leaflet in different forms to ensure the accessibility of all service users.
Child Protection to Safeguarding Children – The Historical Context
The origins of child protection work were seen in the early forms of responses to child cruelty in the 19th century (Ferguson, 2004, 5). The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) was established in the late 19th century as the first child protection agency (Beckett, 2007, 9). The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children helped to influence the core foundation of the NSPCC after the victorious 1874 child abuse prosecution for Mary Ellen Wilson (Munro, 2007, 17)
The 1889 Children’s Charter Act was the first law in child protection history for the state to intervene between children and families (Batty,2005). The Act enabled the police to remove children from their home if they were believed to be mistreated by their parents or guardians (Corby, 2000, 24). The 1889 Act reflects the power that still exists today under section 46 of the 1989 Children Act (Beckett, 2007, 8). Between the period of 1891 to 1903, NSPCC children shelters played a crucial role protecting vulnerable children against child cruelty (Ferguson, 2004, 31). The shelters played a pivotal role rescuing children who were homeless on the streets, sheltering children whose parents were kept in custody and protecting children when their lives were at risk (Corby, 2000, 25).
The 1908 Children’s Act was one of the first pieces of legislation to address the concerns and rights of children (O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin, 2008, 17). The Act introduced the registration of foster carers, the establishment of juvenile courts and the abolishment of imprisoning children aged under 14 (Beckett, 2007, 9).The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 is one of the older pieces of child protection legislation which has parts that are still in power today (Ferguson, 2004, 43). It gave local authorities child protection duties and the power to remove children in emergencies (Beckett, 2007, 9). Four years later, the Act amended the age which a person is considered to be a child, to under the age of 14 and a young person between the ages of 14 and 17 (Hothersall, 2008, 16). Although parents still dominated the rights over children, reforms in legislation were recognising the responsibilities professionals held towards protecting children’s welfare (Hothersall, 2008, 16)
The passing of the 1948 Children Act revolutionised the way vulnerable children in Britain were protected by the state (Linklater and Holman, 2008). The legislation created children’s departments within local authorities and implemented the role of welfare officers (Beckett, 2007, 9). The appointed role of child welfare officers became the formulation of the social work profession (Corby, 2000, 31). The 1948 Children Act was described as “the most comprehensive and humanitarian children’s legislation in history” (Linklater and Holman, 2008). Although the Act safeguarded children from abuse, there was a lack of awareness challenging child maltreatment (O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin, 2008, 18). The concept of prevention was prevalent in the 1950’s due to the little attention the 1948 Act paid to child abuse (Brandon et al, 1998, 14). The impact of prevention was extended in the Children’s and Young Person’s Act 1963 by recommending all local authorities to support families whose children were not looked after by the local authority (Brandon et al 1998, 14). Child care officers were optimistic working directly with families reduced the number of admissions of children into care (Corby, 2000, 31). The unity of families and local authorities working together remained a positive approach (O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin,2008, 18) to provide supportive interventions before a crisis point was reached (Hothersall, 2008, 8).
Child abuse and neglect became a social issue in the 1970’s due to the growing speculation that not all physical injuries to children were accidental (Owen and Pritchard, 1993, 39). The discovery of the Battered Baby Syndrome by Henry Kempe led professionals to work with families and children as a medical problem (Fawcett et al, 2004, 53). Kempe’s ideas led to the idea of parents abusing their children as a psychological problem rather than acknowledging the social issues of poverty and deprivation (Owen and Pritchard,1993, 39).
The tragic death of Maria Colwell became one of the first child protection cases that came into the media spotlight due to the failings of incompetent professionals who failed to protect her (Beckett, 2007, 9). The public inquiry highlighted that child abuse was still a dominant social problem (Owen and Pritchard, 1993, 39) and that there was a serious lack of coordination and communication among services responsible for protecting children (Batty, 2005). The death of Maria Colwell was further followed by other high profile inquiries into the deaths of Jasmine Beckford, Tyra Henry and Kimberley Carlile, who all died at the hands of their parents (Fawcett et al, 2004, 53). Despite the pressure from social services to create a more effective investigation system, social workers were heavily criticised for working too closely with parents and for failing to monitor the maltreatment of children (Hearn et al, 2004). The implementation of risk assessments were drafted to replace the supportive casework skills to identify child abuse (Brandon et al, 1998, 15). Recommendations were proposed to change child abuse work to child protection and to place statutory responsibility for protecting children at risk to local authorities (Corby, 2000, 41). Society began to acknowledge the voices of children to be heard. ChildLine was launched in 1986 as a national confidential helpline to exert the rights of children to be listened to (O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin, 2008, 20).
Before the Cleveland case, public inquiries into child abuse illustrated the failings of professionals protecting children who were abused by their parents or carers (Fawcett, 2004, 53). The reviews reinforced the certainty that if professionals did their jobs properly, child abuse tragedies were avoidable and professionals could differentiate dangerous families from others (Hearn et al, 2004). However, the 1988 Cleveland inquiry demonstrated that child protection professionals failed to recognise the rights of the parents and intervened too quickly “removing 121 children over a six month period in to care” (O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin, 2008, 20). The inquiry criticised the impulsive reaction of individuals acting too hastily (Munro, 2007, 21). The Cleveland inquiry helped to shape policy and practice to work in partnership with parents and to give consideration of children’s rights (Corby, 2000, 44). The Working Together 1988 guidelines provided guidance on how agencies should work together and set out guidelines for assessing children in relation to every possible form of abuse (Hearn et al, 2004).
In the 1990’s, England saw a major transformation in children and families law, introducing a greater emphasis on parental responsibility and establishing children’s rights (Adams et al, 2002, 267) The 1989 Children’s Act was widely seen as the most important child care law brought together into one piece of legislation to empower and promote children’s welfare (Symonds and Kelly, 1998, 230). The Act also addressed issues of inequalities amongst black and ethnic children and disabled children (Kiron, 2009, 12). It illustrated a shift in policy from the philosophy of child abuse prevention to the best interest of the child (O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin, 2008, 21). The 1989 Act addressed the dynamics of child protection work focusing on the rights of the children and parents and working effectively with professionals (Adams et al, 2002, 82).
The promotion of children’s rights was further extended by the 1989 UNCRC international law on the rights of children (Brandon et al, 1998, 23).Article 12 of the UN Convention argued for children to be seen as independent human beings with the rights to express their views independently from adults and to fully participate in the decision making processes (Hallett and Prout, 2003, 27). However, Nixon (2002) argues that, despite the UK approval of the UNCRC, UK governments at the time did not fully commit to the implementation of the Convention. It became apparent that children’s rights were only advocated in looked after children and areas affecting children and young people in the youth justice system (Fawcett et al, 2004, 29).
The mid-1990 saw the policies of practices in the children protection system become a subject of concern (Parton, 2010). The legislation reinforced that children and family practices should work in partnership with parents (Hearn et al, 2004), but, in reality, the law increased tensions between the interests of the child, their families and the state through legal procedures (Dalrymple, 2002). Social work practices were being dominated by section 47 enquires which alienated parents from the assistance of family support (O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin, 2008, 21). A summary of findings on child protection was published by the Department of Health 1995 (Quiggin, 2004, 65). The findings illustrated the need for better communication amongst professionals and supportive interventions for families to cope outside the child protection system (O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin, 2008, 22). Concerns were also raised for professional interventions to be sensitive to needs of the family and to form relationships based on trust and honesty (Hearn et al, 2004). The report also highlighted flaws within assessments “lacking systematic approaches” to information gathering; it also failed to reflect children’s views and denied the needs of ethnic minority and disabled children (Quiggin, 2004, 66). Subsequently, this led to changes in government policies to rectify the weaknesses in children’s services to assist children in need (Adams et al, 2002, 267).
The death of Victoria Climbie in 2000 shocked the nation due to the failure of professionals to notice the abuse or to speak directly to her (Munro, 2007, 23). Following the inquiry into her death, the government issued an Every Child Matters (ECM) Green Paper on further initiatives to change social work practice with children and families (Parton, 2010). Subsequently, ECM became the basis of the 2004 Children Act (NSPCC, 2010), and this reflected a broader strategy for overcoming child abuse and intervening at a much earlier stage in a child’s life to overcome problems in the future (Parton, 2010). In regards to child protection work, the Children Act of 2004 placed a duty on all local authorities and agencies to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people (O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin, 2008, 24). It set out a wider strategy for integrating services to children so that every child can achieve the five ECM outcomes (NSPCC, 2010). ECM emphasises the importance of listening to children, young people and the family (Lefevre, 2010, 19). The implementation of the Integrated Children System (ICS) was part of the government’s initiatives to change children’s services for assessment and care planning (Cleaver et al, 2008, 12), and to incorporate an inter-agency approach to the assessments and interventions into children’s lives (O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin, 2008, 46). The ICS enabled the child or young person to be fully involved in early interventions identified before problems become more severe (Cleaver et al, 2008, 12). With a strong dedication to early intervention, the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) was introduced to assess children with additional needs (Cleaver, 2008, 18) and to ensure all practitioners listened to and understood children’s needs (Lefevre, 2010, 19). It is an important part of the wider ECM strategy, ensuring all children’s services communicate and share information effectively between different agencies (Munro, 2007, 27).
The voice of Children and Young people in the Child Protection Procedure
The child protection system incorporates approaches to prevent and protect children and young people from the potential experiences of abuse, whether physical, sexual, emotional or neglect (Cawson et al, 2000), which could jeopardise their development or lives (Woolfson et al, 2010). It is the duty of all children’s services to share the responsibility of safeguarding children and to promote their welfare (Murno, 2007, 31). Although the 1989 Children Act was a “landmark in the history of the child protection system” it was criticised for supporting a “child in need” but excluding children who may suffer economic hardship (Lawrence, 2004, 74, 102). Hence consecutive governments changed children’s policy to embrace all the needs proposed in the ECM agenda (Cleaver et al, 2008, 13).
The 2004 Children Act provides the legal foundation for the ECM programme, but the emphasis on parental and children rights still reflects the principles behind the 1989 Act (Hoders and Barker, 2007, 86). Provisions added to the 1989 legislation currently place a legal duty on all organisations providing services for children and families to “work together” (Munro, 2007, 37). Before the provisions were implemented, vulnerable children were referred to children’s services under Section 17 as a “child in need”, rather than a child in need of protection, which did not lead to a multi-agency protection plan to help the child (Davies and Duckett, 2009, 11). The framework for involving children in the CPP was raised in the “Working Together to Safeguard Children” guidelines (Cossar, 2008). It clarifies the importance of “professionals and organisations working in child protection to promote and safeguard the welfare of the child” (Hoders and Barker,2007, 4). The Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families was introduced to ascertain and identify children’s needs holistically (Tuck, 2004, 45). The key features of the framework made it a consistent approach to “ensure children are listened to” in assessments and the decision making progress (Lefevre, 2010, 20). The assessment widens our knowledge of children whose needs were sometimes ignored, such as young carers, disabled children or children from ethnic minority backgrounds (Cleaver et al, 2008,16).
The actions are laid out by CPP with the multi-agency Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs), which have a statutory duty to explain how organisations in every local authority will safeguard children in their vicinity (Tuck, 2004, 44). The CPP begins once child protection referrals are made, after concerns of the child’s welfare are raised from other professionals or members of the public, and the local authority decides whether an initial assessment is required (Kirton, 2009, 23). The purpose of the initial assessment is to identify whether a child is in need under Section 17 or if they may be suffering significant harm under Section 47 of the 1989 Children Act (Beckett, 2007, 17). If it is deemed necessary to ensure the safety of a child immediately, away from a parent’s care, a social worker can apply to a court to make an Emergency Protection Order under Section 44 (Munro, 2007, 40). If it becomes clear after the initial assessment that the child is at risk or likely to be harmed, then a strategy meeting will be arranged (Butler and Roberts, 2004, 297), involving professionals such as the police, social services and other agencies to share information and to decide what further action is needed immediately to safeguard the child and whether enquiries under Section 47 should be instigated (Beckett, 2007, 17). It is at this stage that local authorities have a duty to refer parents to independent advice and advocacy once inquiries commence under Section 47 (O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin, 2008, 52). However, Butler and Roberts argue that common difficulties associated with the initial assessment and enquiries are that the child’s views can be ignored and negative assumptions about families can lead to observations being overlooked (2004, 299). Brown (1986) carried out a study of parents’ experiences of the CPP and social workers. The study depicted a major lack of clarity between parents and social workers in the initial assessments, which created anxiety and a lack of trust for the parents (Cloke and Davies, 1995, 172; Brown, 1986). Batty and Cullen (1996) emphasise the need for social workers to play a positive role, shifting away from gathering evidence of abuse, risk and failure to promoting family strengths and supportive networks. Kirton(2009) supports this view that social workers need to be “open minded” and investigations should reflect children’s needs rather than being an assessment of scrutiny.
In cases where suspected significant harm is acknowledged, a core assessment will be undertaken alongside the enquiries under Section 47 (Butler and Roberts, 2004, 298). The core assessment will identify issues raised in the initial assessment and should build a bigger picture of the entire situation (Beckett, 2007, 23). The Children’s Legal Centre (2011) stresses the importance of completing core assessments on time to reduce the harmful impact they could expose on the child or young person. It is at this stage that professionals should identify if a parent or child is disabled, as they may need help with communication to allow them to participate fully, or the use of interpreters if their first language is not English (Beckett, 2007, 23). Humphrey et al (1999) support social workers using interpreters for home visits as otherwise communicating with the service user can be problematic. Platt and Shemmings (1996) reinforce the need for professionals to be culturally sensitive and to adopt a multicultural perspective when engaging with families from black or ethnic minority backgrounds .Social workers need to understand families from different cultural backgrounds, to recognise their cultural patterns and to disregard any preconceived ideas of black or minority families (Lefevre, 2010,13). Ultimately professionals have to adhere to the law, according to Paragraph 5.64 (DfES, 2006), to talk to the children to determine their desires and views (O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin,2008, 52). This highlights the importance of “sensitivity…when interviewing the children” (Beckett, 2007, 23).
Although children’s rights are enshrined in government legislation, Children’s Legal Centre evidence suggests that local authorities struggle to consult and engage children in the CPP in a significant way (Children’s Legal Centre, 2011). Sanders and Mace (2006) believe the problem with “policy developments is the reflection of children as passive subjects [as they are] designed to protect them because of their vulnerability”. Despite considerable work completed over recent years, encouragement to actually promote the participation of children during the assessments is relatively limited (Kirton, 2009, 30).
Children’s and Young people participation in Case Conferences
Concerns and problems surrounding the participation of children and young people are generally identified in case conferences. The challenge of trying to promote children’s direct participation, in a process not geared towards their involvement, is noticed intrinsically in child protection (Sanders and Mace, 2006). Younger children or those with a disability who may lack understanding are some of the many excluded from the CPP (Wells, 1993). LSCBs are actively trying to ensure the policies and services of child protection matters reflect the views of all children and young people (Woolfson et al, 2010).
The purpose of the case conference is to bring together the family and professionals to share information, to acknowledge the problems of the children and family and “to tie up loose ends” (Buckley, 2003, 97). The case conference will make judgements on the possibilities of the child suffering considerable harm in the future and will decide a strategy of action (a Child Protection Plan) to safeguard the child (Butler and Roberts, 2004, 298). It is the LSCB’s duty to involve children before the conference by providing guidance in a leaflet about the conference and how it operates, and by informing the child or young person of their right to bring a friend or advocate to support them (Cossar and Long, 2008). Research demonstrates that most children and young participants hear about their case conference (Cossar et al, 2011) but are given limited information about the process (Sinclair and Franklin, 2000). Beecher, Cash and Graham (2001) examined sixteen local authorities’ practices and found leaflets for families and professionals, but little or no indication of children’s participation. Lefevre(2010) believes that many children want to attend the conference to hear what is said about them and to have their say but they are intimidated by the ritual of the meetings.
Although local authorities actively encourage children and young people to attend case conferences (Sinclair and Franklin, 2000), the negative reason of “things getting worse” was often reported for non-attendance (Cossar and Long, 2008). Cossar et al (2011) found that children felt unable to contribute in core meetings by raising questions or by being listened to. They were generally discontented with their level of participation. The focus of core meetings is usually to assess risk, with minimal time to propose therapeutic help for children (Kirton, 2009). Sanders and Mace (2006) argue that decisions are being made about the child’s life, so they should be regarded as an active member of the core group (Sanders and Mace, 2006). Woolfson et al (2010) argue that it is the professionals’ duty to identify ways of including children to learn lessons and to promote examples of good practice.
There has been a recent growth in the recognition of the role of independent advocacy services supporting children or young people in case conferences. Schofield and Thoburn (1996) believe a child or young person will significantly benefit from a trusting relationship with a reliable adult to maximise their participation in the case conference. Creegan et al (2006) argue that advocacy and participation is crucial; if children and young people are to be able to participate in a meaningful way, they will require the support and encouragement from an appropriate representative. Horan and Dalrymple (2003) praise the use of advocates: “independent advocacy should be available as of right to the children and young people involved”. Local authorities are starting to acknowledge the need for children and young people to access independent advocates. Wiltshire County Council, for example, works in partnership with Barnardo’s to make certain young people’s views and feelings are a central and respected feature of child protection conferences (Barnardo’s, 2011).
Disabled children and young people’s participation in case conferences
Research shows that children and young people with disabilities are often denied the opportunity to communicate their views in case conferences (Children’s Legal Centre, 2011). Despite statistics showing that disabled children are “3.4 times [more] likely to be abuse than a non disabled child”, they are rarely involved in case conferences (Stalker et al, 2010) and they are less likely to be represented in the CPP (O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin,2008, 86). Kirton (2009) argues that the need for advocacy services is particularly strong for disabled children, whilst Hothersall (2008) believes that child protection systems need to integrate an increased understanding of issues facing children with disabilities and to ensure they are suitably represented, involved and advocated in all choices affecting their lives.
Some findings demonstrate that children experiencing severe communication problems were often excluded from participation because professionals lacked the training and confidence to establish their wishes and feelings (Sinclair and Franklin, 2000). Knutson et al (2004) argue that professionals’ inadequacies are detrimental to securing the rights of disabled children and to their receiving an equal service. The universally-held belief that disabled children are not abused and are not credible witnesses leads to their exclusion in the CPP (Miller, 2002). The views of disabled children and young people were raised in the Two Way Street project, which wanted to challenge the negative assumptions held by many professionals regarding disabled people. They argued that the emphasis is too much on their impairment, as opposed to listening to or finding ways to communicate with them (Joseph Rowntree, 2001). It is therefore social workers’ and other professionals’ responsibility to ensure, regularly, that disabled children are actively listened to and involved in the decision making process (O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin, 2008, 85). Lefevre (2010) argues that it is important for professionals to recognise that more time needs to be spent developing young disabled people’s understanding of choice and finding creative ways to express it.
How can CPP incorporate anti discriminatory elements?
Many families have experienced discriminatory and insensitive services in the CPP. There is a continuing need for child protection assessments and interventions to take a holistic approach of families needs alongside the social and cultural context (Humphreys et al, 1999). It is essential for social workers to achieve effective protection of vulnerable children through engaging effectively with families and assessing the level of risk accurately (Platt and Shemmings, 37). Research has shown that black and minority children have expressed fears of being misunderstood due to language barriers (Lefevre, 2010, 35). Professionals can present good practice and challenge oppression by finding the right language to interview a bilingual child so that the child can feel empowered (Jones, 2003, 54). Hoders and Barker (2007) argue that it is the professionals’ responsibility to disregard stereotypes and assumptions, and to assess the needs of the child with understanding of the influences of diverse customs and religions on parents morals, behaviour and values. Social workers need to analyse whether a non-engaging parent or child has been exposed to racism and to find ways of developing a new relationship of trust (Platt and Shemmings, 1996, 32). Humphreys et al (1999) address the importance of using interpreters for families and children who are not fluent in English, to help avoid the communication issue overshadowing the CPP.
The development of Family Group Conferences (FGCs) in the UK is an excellent model to empower children and families and to minimise the role of the state (Horan and Dalrymple, 2003). Although there is limited research on FGCs, they have been found to be a creative solution to provide help and change family dynamics (Kirton, 2009, 57). FGCs show a good record of success in safeguarding children, enhancing the power of the family and minimising the routine system of the CPP (O’Loughlin and O’Loughlin, 2008, 76). Sinclair and Franklin (2000) suggest FGCs enable children to participate and to influence decisions. They can be involved at the beginning of the FGC by welcoming and introducing members of their family and professionals, whom they often know best, or by helping to chair the conference (Beecher et al, 2001). However, it is the practitioner’s duty to find creative ways to give children the opportunity to express themselves in the form of a letter, drawing or video message to elevate their voice even if they do not wish to be present (Nixon, 2002).
A common theme emerging in CPP is disabled children’s barriers to communicating with professionals. For instance, a child with sensory or cognitive impairments may require different forms of communication aids, such as sign language, symbols or signs, but research shows professionals generally rely on parents’ accounts to express children’s views (Kirton, 2009,162). Noticeably, social workers are generally reluctant to engage with disabled children and fail to consult them even though statutory duties require authorities to ascertain the wishes and feelings of children (Joseph Rowntree, 2001). It is essential that social workers receive in-depth and regular training on communicating and using techniques to ensure meaningful participation for children with disabilities (Children’s Legal Centre, 2011). It is crucial for the CPP to become more sensitive and accessible to disabled children’s needs, such as by establishing helplines, advocacy or complaint procedures (Stalker et al, 2010). Principles of good practice will ensure efforts are made to plan assessment sessions with disabled children, to provide extra time for interviewing and visits and checking facilities are adapted to the child’s needs (Jones, 2003, 63).
This essay has addressed the complexities of finding approaches for the empowerment and participation of children and young people in the CPP. Sinclair and Franklin (2000) suggest it is our duty as professionals to adopt a participatory culture that actively informs, consults, prepares and considers the needs of the child. As trainee social workers, we need to make sure children’s rights and needs are at the centre of our practice. We need to understand that children and young people in the CPP are vulnerable and may have experienced earlier disempowering experiences with other professionals, so being open and honest will communicate respect and a willingness to get them genuinely involved (Nixon, 2002). We need to recognise the value of providing children and young people with information and explanations to assist effective decision making and to help them make choices (Beecher et al, 2001). We need to ensure that children with impairments or disabilities are fully involved in making choices and are empowered to achieve better outcomes, as we would do for any child (Hoders and Barker, 2007, 66).
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