C4EO - Staffordshire Safeguarding Children Board - Home
Effective practice to protect children living in highly resistant families Lorraine Hansom, Sector Specialist 1 Aims & Objectives To explore key messages from national research & learning from local reviews Develop working awareness & understanding Develop skills & confidence in making decisions and achieving change
Understand staff care & safety issues Consultation on SSCB practice guidance For parents & children to more readily engage in interventions to change entrenched behaviour 2 Why is this important? Recent high profile child protection cases have raised concerns about some extremely resistant families who do not change despite intervention Research and practice suggest that most
parents who maltreat their children do not fall into this group There is a need to better understand resistance and how these families can be helped 3 Local Evidence Serious case review NS10 Working with hostile or highly resistant families can deflect social workers and other professionals from focussing upon the needs of children in such families
Learning review 5 agencies 34 families 44% inadequate safeguarding arrangements These families present resistance early within universal services. Lack of engagement / take up of support usually leads to closure / discharge = a missed opportunity to intervene early 4 C4EO Evidence base Safeguarding Knowledge Review 1 Effective Practice to protect children living in highly resistant families
Safeguarding briefing 1 Effective Interventions for complex families where there are concerns about, or evidence of, a child suffering significant harm Safeguarding briefing 2 What are the key questions for audit of child protection systems and decision-making? Safeguarding briefing 3 The oversight and review of cases in the light of changing circumstances and new information: how do people respond to new (and challenging) information? These can all be downloaded from www.c4eo.org.uk 5 Knowledge Review
1. What are the circumstances, characteristics and prevalence of families that are resistant to change? 2. What challenges to practice do resistance, and the underlying characteristics and circumstances, raise? 3. What services, treatments and interventions are effective for families that are resistant to change? Rebecca Fauth, Helena Jelicic, Diane Hart and Sheryl Burton,NCB Professor David Shemmings,University of Kent 6
The review evidence base Highly resistant families are a subpopulation that does not get much specific attention in research Thus, we mined existing literature on: families with multiple or complex problems maltreatment recurrence serious case reviews practitioners and parents perceptions of effectiveness Used this literature to infer relevant information about the most challenging families. 7
What is resistance? Ambivalence Denial/Avoidance Unresponsiveness to treatment Violence/Hostility (Confrontation) (Disguised Compliance)
8 Prevalence No evidence on prevalence of highly resistant families per se Recurrence rates vary significantly between studies due to differences in study design (i.e., 25-69 per cent) 2005-2007 analysis of serious case reviews revealed that 75 per cent of families were characterised as uncooperative, which included hostility, avoidance, disguised
compliance and/or ambivalence. 9 Exercise Think about the reluctant families with whom you are working where it is hard to achieve change Precisely what was the behaviour that made you think they were reluctant / resistant? When did it happen? Why do you think it happened? 10 Circumstances and characteristics
Beware! These are associations. They are not causes and nor are they reliable indicators Key circumstances associated with recurrence: Families history of abuse, particularly substantiated and repeated prior reports, one of the most consistent and strongest factors Possibility of labelling and further scrutiny of these families? 11 Circumstances and characteristics Multiple, simultaneous problems
Domestic violence, substance misuse, mental health problems in combination are a stronger predictor of recurrence than each alone Criminal activity, lack of financial resources, low social support Lack of timely services and assessments Child characteristics associated with being hard to help: premature, disabled, teenagers, those returning home from care 12 Parental attitudes
US study using parent-reported and observed parent-child interactions found that abusive parents reports of their childrens behaviours were more negative than that observed by the researchers Suggests the need for more observations of parent-child interactions Many studies do not differentiate between mothers and fathers; indeed parenting is used when focus is solely on mothers. 13 Implications
14 Barriers faced by families Fear of consequences Stigma and mistrust Actual experience of receiving services 15 Fear of consequences Parents who are aware that behaviours are damaging but are reluctant to give them up will
conceal difficulties, e.g. Addiction Relationships with perpetrators Parents who fear that their children will be taken away from them will minimise issues e.g. Domestic violence Mental ill health 16 Stigma and Mistrust Parents who are discriminated against e.g. Black and Ethnic Minority groups
Disabled parents Communities who consider it stigmatising to seek state help People who have experienced coercive state power in the past Parents who hold strong views about physical punishment or child compliance Parents who appear to be coping well but have low tolerance of stress 17 Experience of services
Parents who were in care themselves Parents whose earlier experience of receiving services has involved: Services which they didnt find helpful Power being taken from them Workers being judgemental, rude, not understanding 18 2. What challenges to practice do resistance, and the underlying characteristics and circumstances, raise?
Challenges relating to families Challenges relating to practitioners Challenges related to agencies 19 Challenges related to families Practitioners are able to describe behaviours and circumstances that pose challenges to their practice including: Inability to contact parents Families lack of motivation/commitment Families that are in constant crisis Violence
But, they lacked confidence distinguishing between families active engagement in treatment vs. false compliance. 20 Challenges related to practitioners When working with complex families, practitioners sometimes become overly optimistic Focus too much on small improvements rather than considering families full histories
Practitioners need to ensure they: Are willing to make critical judgements Do not underestimate harm to children Do not develop fixed views of families that are not updated in light of contrary evidence 21 Challenges related to practitioners Practitioners involved in complex cases may lose focus on children when: Parents needs eclipse needs of children Parents turn the focus away from maltreatment allegations
Parents make it difficult for practitioners to see children alone Practitioners do not have sufficient experience/training to help parents understand how their behaviour is harmful to children Men, grandparents and siblings are often left out of equation. 22 Behaviours for practitioners to avoid
Practitioners need to ensure they are not: Unwilling to make critical judgements Underestimating harm to children Developing fixed views of families that are not updated in light of contrary evidence Allowing their own anxieties to lead them to behave negatively towards families Failing to involve families fully 23 Challenges related to agencies Agency policies may encourage practitioners to
create a (false) dichotomy between in need and at risk of harm Comprehensive assessments and services targeted at children deemed to be suffering or being likely to suffer significant harm Practitioners feel pressured to close cases quickly and balance heavy caseloads Practitioners frustrated with long waits for or lack of available specialist services. 24 Challenges related to multi-agency working
Poor information sharing and analysis within and across agencies: Ofsted review indicated that individual agencies did not have complete information on families histories Confusion regarding data protection/information sharing Assessments were not sufficiently in-depth for decisionmaking Varying thresholds for classifying significant harm Sheer number of agencies involved Child- and adult-focused practitioners may have different priorities. 25
Parents perspectives What practitioners perceive as resistance may be parents lack of satisfaction with services Parents identified some negative traits they associated with practitioners including judgemental, cold, one-sided and insincere Parents did not always receive the help they asked for Sought out informal sources of support Parents expressed frustration that they werent involved in assessments and interventions.
26 Implications 27 Making sense of responses Are you prepared? Plans & strategies? Could you have aggravated the situation? Is the hostility a response to frustration? Does the person need to complain? Is behaviour deliberately threatening / obstructive?
Is the person aware of impact having on you? Is s/he so used to aggression that doesnt appreciate impact? Is your discomfort disproportionate to what has been said/done? Taking personally where hostility is aimed at agency? 28 3. What services, treatments and intervention are effective for families that are resistant to change? 29
What makes a difference? 3 aspects: Interventions Interpersonal factors Assessment 30 Research on effectiveness No studies examine effective services for resistant or complex families A few studies look at impacts of various
programmes to prevent recurrence including: Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS) provide a range of intensive, short-term services in the home Multi-component provide a package of services directed at identified problems Parent training teach parenting strategies and help parents improve skills. 31 Research on effectiveness 32
Research on effectiveness Long term continuity (as opposed to episodic services) Centre-based delivery integrating targeted with universal services Preceding or following intensive services with lower-intensity ones (allowing families to reenter of their own volition if stresses re-occur) Services from specialist adult workers 33 Engaging complex families
Child protection system is a powerful tool Practitioners should harness this power in a positive, non-coercive manner Parents response depends on an honest acknowledgement of power differential Honesty and transparency are important Workers need the ability to combine support and control Social workers and partners must be prepared to ask direct questions on more than one occasion about the impact of adult behaviours on the child 34
Engaging complex families SSCB Learning Review What worked Multi-agency approach Shared work plan Agreement about outcomes needing to be achieved Information sharing Right services at the right time What didnt work Poor communication between agencies Families dividing agencies
Discharge from services - revolving door Unannounced visits 35 Engaging complex families Interpersonal factors Empathy and established relationships skills such as active listening and demonstrable respect are necessary practitioner behaviours But need to be balanced with healthy dose of scepticism Evidence suggests that many practitioners display a confrontational style
Active involvement, with as much power as possible given to families Experienced, skilled, persistent & resilient staff (SSCB Learning review) 36 Engaging complex families written contracts Practitioner Tips: Written Contracts Consider drawing up a written contract with the family specifying: a) Exactly what behaviour is not acceptable e.g. raising of voice,
swearing, threatening etc. b) Spelling out that this will be taken into account in any risk assessment of the child/young person c) Clearly explaining the consequences of continued poor behaviour on their part- this could include undertaking joint visits, seeing them only at the office; or for statutory agencies initiating action to consider the removal of the child. 37 Effective assessments Cannot underestimate the importance of good, in-depth assessments
Assessments should not be one-off snapshots of families behaviours, but should include: Observations particularly, parent-child interactions Understanding of families histories Inclusion of the whole family unit Assessments should be sustained to ensure cases do not lose momentum The collection of information needs to be coordinated across practitioners. 38 Effective assessments Local Learning Points
Assessments weakened by hostility of family deflected practitioners from focussing on needs of young person Practitioners assessments must be evolving pieces of work that can be developed and changed as new information comes to light. Importance of information sharing systems across agencies 39 Observation There is an urgent need to review practitioners tendency to
rely almost exclusively on interviewing parents about their parenting skills...Attention needs to be paid to observing parent-child dynamics in order to assess caregivers actually parenting, as distinct from describing how they parent...Convincing evidence exists to show that simulating sensitive parenting is very hard to sustain. But to accomplish such a shift in emphasis it is likely that specific observational techniques, such as understanding and recognising disorganised attachment behaviour, will need to be acquired by practitioners Focus on the Child If you feel threatened, what is it like for the child?
Impact of hostility on the child: oDe-sensitised to violence oLearnt to appease and minimise oSimply too frightened to tell Have you seen the child? Seen them alone? Listened to them? Understood their views? What might the child have been feeling as the door closed behind you? Group exercise Think of 5 questions which would help you (or someone you supervise) to assess the impact that resistance or
hostility could be having on your work Please write down your agreed set of questions 42 Implications for practice 43 The role of supervision It is only when skilled and committed workers have time to spend time with and empathise with these parents that it becomes possible to understand when important
information or serious problems are being concealed and more intrusive measures to protect the child are needed. In these cases, to ensure that the childs welfare remains the paramount consideration, the role of an equally skilled and knowledgeable casework supervisor becomes even more vital 44 Effective supervision
Most evidence mentions the importance of management & supervision, few lessons on what works Circumstances where good supervision is essential include when practitioners: Are overwhelmed/lacking confidence Experience violence Are acting out their own strong emotions A safe but challenging space to guard against rigid adherence to a particular view, or jumping from one theory to another without resolution Learning culture; dialectic mindset: playing the devils advocate; bring in a fresh pair of eyes
45 Effective Supervision Supervisors need to be able to Stand back to ensure that they have oversight of a case Use processes for regular review and follow-up Give practitioners a sense of direction Keep them on track, including reviewing
whether the current approach is working Maintain a clear record of decision-making Effective Supervision Questions supervisors should ask practitioners What are your assumptions about the family and where is the hard evidence to support them? At what points have you changed your assessment of the situation? Would you have acted differently if this information had come from another source? What alternative explanations / goals might have existed? What factors led you to the chosen option?
Might there be other explanations? How might others describe and explain what is going on? Can you picture what life is like for this child? Does your original hypothesis still make sense? Do you need to change your view? Which case are you most worried about and why? Which case are you least worried about and why? Staff Care & Safety Critical role of managers Stereotypical assumptions Males present higher levels of risk Male workers less likely to be intimidated
Culture of denial, minimising, part of the job Impact of violence or abuse on identity / selfimage Worker takes on role of family mediator 48 Staff Care & Safety Practitioner Tips: Keeping yourself safe Acquaint yourself with your agreed agency procedures e.g. there may be a requirement to ensure the police are informed of certain situations. Dont go unprepared: be aware of the situation and the likely response
Dont make assumptions that previously non-hostile situations will always be so Dont put yourself in a potentially violent situation. Feel safe and in control at all times Get out if it is getting threatening If an incident occurs: Try to stay calm and in control of your feelings Make a judgement of whether to stay or leave without delay Contact your manager immediately Follow your agencys post-incident procedures including recording. 49 Staff Care & Safety
Top Tips for Managers Keep Health & Safety regularly on agenda of team meetings Ensure H&S is on all new employee inductions Ensure staff have the confidence to speak to you about concerns relating to families Prioritise case supervisions and do not cancel Ensure you have a monitoring system for home visits Analyse and regularly update team training Ensure everyone knows how to respond in an emergency Empower staff to take charge of situations, be confident in their actions Recognise individual dynamics, acknowledge impact on individuals Pay attention to staff safety when allocating workloads
Be aware what is happening in local communities 50 Using Management Processes Risk management Violence to Staff policies
Case auditing Learning reviews Performance Management Use of near miss or serious incident investigations 51 Final Summary
The importance of this area of work Underpinning knowledge Challenges to practice Skills and what works effective practice Importance of assessments Focus on child, observations & triangulation Joint working Trust and empowerment
Need for good supervision and staff care 52 Challenge or opportunity? Implications must be considered within current policy context Crisis of confidence in the system At a time of increased referrals, fewer resources and less national guidance BUT Munro review provides opportunity to refocus on content rather than process Review findings fit well within this approach
rediscovering professional judgement 22 Where next? As a result of the learning you have undertaken, what do you intend to do differently? What support will you need? How will you know if you have been successful? And Finally.. Evaluation
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