Child Protection: Risk and the Moral Order 9781350362659, 9780333629475

Drawing on original research, this book provides a major critique of contemporary child protection research, policy and

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Child Protection: Risk and the Moral Order
 9781350362659, 9780333629475

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For Chris, Kusminder and Suzanne

List of Figures and Tables

Figures 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4

1.5 1.6 1.7

Child abuse and neglect reports in the United States, 1967-92 2 Notifications of child abuse and neglect, Department of Health and Community Services, 3 Victoria, Australia, 1977/8-1993/4 Protective service budget, Department of Health and Community Services, Victoria, Australia, 1981/2-1993/4 3 Child maltreatment allegations, 1989/90-1993/4, Western Australia 4 Funnelling and filtering child abuse reports in 7 Western Australia, 1987 Funnelling and filtering child abuse reports in 8 Western Australia, 1994/5 Funnelling and filtering child abuse reports in South Wales, UE( 9

Tables 1.1 1.2 6.1 6.2

6.3 7.1 7.2

Numbers of children on child protection registers in England by category for selected years 1978-94 5 Operation of filters in English child protection system 12 Some comparisons between the original 655 records and the randomly selected 30 records 123 Care-giver family structure of referred children 124 Ethnicity of children about whom child protection allegations were made 125 Advice and guidance cases: care-giver family structure and type of abuse 157 Advice and guidance cases: categorisation and ethnicity 158 viii

List of Figures and Tables 7.3 7.4 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5

ix

Advice and guidance cases: care-giver actions and resulting harms or injuries to children 159 Advice and guidance cases: length of time open and type of abuse categorised 160 Outcome: further and no further action 197 Alleged harms and injuries 200 Alleged actions 200 The accounts of subject children and alleged perpetrators 204 Maternal response and outcome 205

Preface

Since the early 1980s all three of us have been working, researching and writing in the area of child protection (Parton, 1985, 1991; Thorpe, 1994; Wattam, 1992). In the early 1990s, however, via a chance meeting and subsequent series of phone calls, we came to realise that our different but complementary areas of interest and expertise provided a stimulating and productive arena for developing our analyses and ideas both separately and together. We were also conscious of a considerable amount of research being carried out in Britain, much of it funded by the Department of Health, which was likely to have a major impact on the way we thought about and developed child protection policy and practice. While sympathetic and supportive of much of this research, we were also uncomfortable with how it might be interpreted and understood. In particular, we were concerned that it may not address and analyse the nature of child protection work and how this is experienced and carried out by practitioners. It is now clear that the publication of the research has opened up a major debate on the future direction of policy and practice in this highly sensitive area (Dartington Social Research Unit, 1995). It is also clear that the current debates are not confined to Britain. Very similar discussions are taking place elsewhere, particularly North America and Australia, about future priorities and directions. This book brings together our current thinking and analyses and draws on our own empirical research. In the process it develops a series of arguments and raises a number of questions which are central to contemporary child protection policy and practice. The book thus makes an explicit contribution to these current debates. At various stages over recent years we have shared our ideas with numerous practitioners, managers, policy-makers and researchers who have provided new insights and critical perspectives. Much of this has taken place at various x

Preface xi conferences where we have been invited to speak. These have proved invaluable. We would, however, like to thank Barbara Hearn, Philip Noyes, Des Semple and Sue Wise, all of whom have actively participated in our journey at various times, and Sue Hanson who helped bring it all together at the end. It is important to stress, however, that we are completely responsible for what follows. NIGEL PARTON DAVID THORPE CORINNE WATTAM

1 Current Issues in Child Protection and Child Abuse: Some Common International Themes

Child protection systems and practices are currently being subjected to a fundamental interrogation and re-appraisal. It is perhaps not an exaggeration to suggest that child welfare practitioners and managers are feeling embattled and even under seige in a context of growing referrals and increasingly severe caseloads but where there are insufficient resources to do the job expected of them. Increasingly major questions are being posed about the efficacy, impact and outcomes for children, parents and professionals of a system which has been developed and refined since the early 1970s. This is an important period of debate about the future direction of policy and practice in child protection, and this book aims to make an explicit contribution to these debates. While the focus for our analysis and discussions is primarily the UK we will also demonstrate and argue that the issues are not exclusive to the UK alone. Parallel trends, developments and debates are taking place across the English-speaking Western world. As we will illustrate, this is most clearly the case in the USA, Canada and Australia. Not only can we learn from these wider global experiences, but it is also intended that our analyses and arguments will have relevance and significance to a much wider world than just the UK.

Trends in Child Abuse and Neglect Reports There can be little doubt that child welfare agencies have been virtually overwhelmed in recent years by an explosion of child abuse and neglect reports and referrals (Lindsey, 1994).

1

2 Child Protection: Risk and the Moral Order In the USA the number of official reports of child abuse to child protection agencies has increased inexorably since the late 1960s from 9,563 in 1967 to 669,000 in 1976 to over 2 million in 1987. By 1992 the figure was over 2.9 million (see Figure 1.1). What is also apparent, however, is that a a a cD cry en

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I 1976

1980

1984

1987

1992

Figure 1.1 Child abuse and neglect reports in the United States, 1967-92 (rate per 1,000 in brackets)

Source: McCurdy and Daro (1993)

well over 50 per cent of reported cases are now either determined as being unfounded or not substantiated. While in 1976 60 per cent were classed as substantiated, by 1987 this figure had dropped to 40 per cent. A very similar pattern of trends has been identified in Canada (Johnson and Chisholm, 1989). The trends are perhaps even more dramatic in Australia. In the State of Victoria notifications of child abuse/neglect went up more than 5,000 per cent between 1977/8 and 1993/4 (see Figure 1.2). These increases in Victoria were also matched by a tremendous growth in the budget for child protection (see Figure 1.3).

Current Issues in Child Protection and Abuse

3

26,622 19,344 17,981

,-

5,040 1,296

517

I I 1977/8

1980/1

1985/6

1990/1

1992/3

1993/4

Figure 1.2 Notifications of child abuse and neglect, Department of Health and Community Services, Victoria, Australia, 1977/8-1993/4

40,000,000 29,711,400 13,000,000

2,800,000 624,000

1981/2

I 1985/6

1988/9

1991/2

1994/5

Figure 1.3 Protective service budget, Department of Health and Community Services, Victoria, Australia, 1981/2-1993/ 4

A review of child protection data in Western Australia (Cant and Downie, 1994) demonstrated that allegations had increased from less than 3,000 in 1989/90 to nearly 8,000 in 1993/4. However the number of substantiated allegations had remained fairly constant in line with population growth (see Figure 1.4).

4

Child Protection: Risk and the Moral Order

8,000 7,000 6,000 5,000

total allegations

4,000 3,000 2,000

substantiated allegations

1,000 1989/90

1990/1

1991/2

1992/3

1993/4

Figure 1.4 Child maltreatment allegations, 1989/90-1993/4, Western Australia Source: Cant and Downie (1994)

The Western Australian review also argued that many of the reports of child maltreatment could more appropriately be seen as concerns about parenting style rather than about harm to children. They were about parents not providing what the community considered an adequate standard of care. In the UK there are no comparable statistics. While it has recently been estimated that there are currently 160,000 child protection referrals per year (Dartington Social Research Unit, 1995), there has been no systematic attempt to collect and collate statistics on child protection referrals. The nearest equivalent statistics relate to the numbers on child protection registers and it is only since 1988 that these statistics have been collected nationally. Prior to that we were dependent on figures extrapolated by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) from the registers it administered covering 9 per cent of the child population of England. The statistics prior to 1988 in Table 1.1 thus relate to extrapolations from

289

Physical neglect

11,844

Total

12,389

2,312

200

1,088

933

7,856

1984

23,820

5,133

455

5,922

1,888

10,422

1986

Source: NSPCC 0978-86); DoH 0988-94)

3,533

0

Grave concern

Emotional abuse

89

7,944

Physical abuse

Sexual abuse

1978

39,200

14,400

1,700

5,800

4,900

11,100

1988

41,200

16,300

2,000

5,800

5,300

10,000

1989

43,600

17,900

2,200

5,900

5,600

10,200

1990

45,300 000%)

21,100 (47%)

2,600 (6%)

6,000 03%)

6,800 05%)

10,600 (23%)

1991

38,600 000%)

12,900 (34%)

2,800 (7%)

6,600 07%)

7,700 (20%)

10,700 (28%)

1992

32,500 000%)

2,700 (8%)

3,500 01%)

8,300 (26%)

8,500 (26%)

11,900 (37%)

1993

34,900 000%)

500 (2%)

4,400 03%)

9,600 (28%)

10,300 (30%)

13,000 (37%)

1994

Numbers of children on child protection registers in England by category for selected years 1978-94

Category of abuse

Table 1.1

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