Stage 4 - Reviewing the plan
- 24 hour, 7 days per week family support has been put into home
(in spite of worries over costs, intrusiveness and stress on workers)
- 10 year old girl has chosen to stay at a school friend's home
and this appears to be working well
- Housing department has allocated family new accommodation that
offers an opportunity for a fresh start
- There is more detailed information about the children's needs
e.g. 3 year old boy hits and threatens the girls, one of the girls
refuses to sleep on her own or have her hair washed
- There is evidence of mother's commitment to her children despite
all the pressures, and she is beginning to question the role of
the men in relation to the family
- The mother is well aware that she could lose her children if things
do not work out
- The men are very unhappy about the social work intervention
- What information do we have that will help us know whether the
plan is working?
- What has been achieved so far in relation to the objectives agreed
in the care plan?
- How far are the individual needs of the children being met?
- How far are mother's needs being met?
Research focused questions
- Are the children safe?
- Are new needs being uncovered?
- If so, what are they?
- Where are the men?
- What contact are they having with the family?
- Does the plan need to be changed?
- Do the priorities need to be adjusted?
- What is the resource position - is the plan sustainable?
- What is the contingency plan?
Reviewing the Plan
The ten year old girl in the case is being looked after
by the parents of a school friend. The other children are at home. Jackson
& Thomas's On
the Move Again? What works in creating stability for looked after children
summarises a lot of the research in this area. On P.98 they list what
they regard as the implications for practice:
- Staying at home offers the best chance of stability (but, of course,
this has to be balanced against the assessed risk of harm to the
- Placement with relatives is preferable to placement with strangers
(interestingly, in this case the girl has negotiated the nearest
thing to a kin placement);
- For school age children equal attention should be given to school
as to the care placement;
- For children with more difficulties we should look for carers
with previous experience;
Long-term placements with carers with children close in age are
to be avoided (one research finding which goes back more than thirty
- The child's existing social networks should be maintained wherever
- Siblings should stay together unless there are strong reasons
to the contrary;
- Preparation for placement in other families is vital as is the
involvement of birth parents as far as possible;
- There needs to be work on building up support for the carers,
the child and the parents from the start;
- Where a child is known to have special needs, extra support should
be provided at the beginning rather than wait for things to go wrong.
Reference was made to Robbie Gilligan's work on resilience
in Stage 1. Another recent source on the same topic
is Tony Newman's Promoting
Resilience: A review of strategies for child care, 2002.
Attachment, trauma and resilience: Therapeutic
caring for children is foster care, is a highly accessible and moving
text about one family's attempt to help children recover from their
The main focus of the work was within the family home
- initially via intensive family support and then later at the local
family centre when they were able to pick up the work. The references
to parenting programmes in the Making Sense of the Information
section and the material on methods of intervention are again relevant
here. The care plan will have specified the objectives to be achieved,
the timescales within which change is to be measured and the services
to be delivered based on the assessment of needs. A review provides
the opportunity to assess whether the desired outcomes have been achieved,
whether the services have been effective, whether there are new needs
that should be addressed and whether the necessary collaboration between
practitioner and the family has been sustained. In a complex case, and
this is a complex case, the care plan will need to be renewed making
any modifications that have proved necessary in the light of experience.
The point was made at the beginning. This is a cyclical process not
a straightforward journey from one point to another. A key component
in this case as it turned out was the direct, skilled and determined
contribution of the social worker. While he was responsible for co-ordinating
the activity of other people, he played an active role in working with
the mother, managing the risks posed by the men and promoting contact
with the girl placed with her school friend.
Earlier a simple distinction was made between knowledge
for understanding and knowledge for intervention.
It is important to remember that research also has something to say
about the how of intervention, the way in which a service is offered
and delivered. For example, Social Work Decisions in Child Care:
Recent Research Findings and their Implications, the first DHSS
research summary to be published in 1985, made the following statement
on p. 20 based on a number of studies about which social worker
characteristics clients value:
'What was appreciated most was honesty, naturalness
and reliability along with an ability to listen. Clients appreciated
being kept informed, having their feelings understood, having the
stress of parenthood accepted and getting practical help as well as
moral support. The social workers whose assistance was valued had
a capacity to help parents retain their role as responsible, authority
figures in relation to their children. These social workers ere actively
involved in the processes, negotiations and family dynamics of admission
and discharge. When these qualities were present, social work help
was highly valued.'
While the above is a distillation of the core characteristics
of effective social work practice with children and families derived
from some nine studies, it is equally pertinent to this particular case.
The social worker identified the mother's commitment to her children
at an early stage, assessed both risks and protective factors, engaged
energetically with a range of complex issues, identified relevant resources
and used the skills of others alongside his own. The mother clearly
appreciated what he did. This did not mean that everything went smoothly,
that appropriate resources were always available or that everyone agreed
all of the time. But there is evidence that this social worker made
a ifference in meeting the needs of these children and this family.
As for previous stages plus:
L. & Pengelly P. (1997) Staff Supervision in a Turbulent Environment:
Managing Process and Task in Front-line Services
E. (1999) 'Common Errors of Reasoning in Child Protection Work', Child
Abuse & Neglect Vol.23, No 8
E.(1998) Improving Social Workers’ Knowledge Base in Child Protection
Work, British Journal of Social Work, 28, 89-105
Some general questions about support structures:
There are repeated messages in the Child Abuse Inquiries
about the importance of Supervision. You might like to consider the
availability of support in cases that you are currently worrying about.
What supervision are you receiving currently?
What is your view of its frequency and quality?
How well aware is your supervisor of your current pressures?
What supervision are you giving currently?
What is your view of its frequency and quality?
How well do you think you know your staff's current pressures?
What is your view of the frequency and quality of the supervision you
How well aware is your manager know of current pressures?
Evidence-based or knowledge-based
practice can be just fashionable words.
What library (books, journals, website and other) resources
do you have in order to access some of the material quoted in the case
How accessible are these resources?
What opportunities are there within your agency to support you in your
attempts to make your practice more effective?
If you were to look at a current child care file now, would there be
evidence of your attempts to apply your knowledge?