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Welfare Reform on the Web (June 2012): Child welfare - UK

Children left to wait as councils miss adoption time targets

J. Bingham

Daily Telegraph, May 11th 2012, p. 12

The first adoption 'scorecards' for English local authorities showed that only 60 children under the age of one were adopted in 2011/12 out of 3,600 of that age in care. Of 152 councils in England with adoption responsibilities, 72 failed to meet key targets to place children in adoptive families within 21 months overall and within seven months of being cleared for adoption by the courts. The figures showed that, even after having been approved for adoption, children in some areas waited up to 20 times longer to be placed than in others.

Criminalising forced marriage through stand-alone legislation: will it work?

N. Pearce and A.K. Gill

Family Law, May 2012, p. 534-542

The Coalition government has recently announced that it intends to criminalise forced marriage. This article examines the main arguments for and against criminalisation, assessing their validity. It concludes that current legislation, in the shape of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 (FMCPA), is effective and that criminalisation would be a distraction. It would require an enormous amount of extra resources without any guarantee that it would have the desired effect. This money would be better spent on ensuring that NGOs, the police, local authorities and other stakeholders are adequately funded to meet the needs of victims and to implement the FMCPA more effectively.

Family-friendly plans in new coalition pitch

J. Jowit and P. Wintour

The Guardian, May 9th 2012, p. 1

A package of measures to help families and children was to be unveiled in the Queen's speech as the coalition attempted to offer a full legislative programme while maintaining its focus on rebuilding the economy. New laws to give parents more flexible leave and strong commitments to family-friendly working hours were to be among the headline measures. Other announcements expected included reform of the system for diagnosing and helping children with special educational needs to give parents more choice in how they were schooled; reforms to the family justice system to speed up care proceedings so no cases took more than six months; and promised changes to the adoption system to make sure parents and children were matched more quickly. The government was also to say it was getting legal advice on how to strengthen the law so that if couples split up, their children could have a strong relationship with both parents.

Fathers' involvement in children's services: exploring local and national issues in 'Moorlandstown'

P. Gilligan, M. Manby and C. Pickburn

British Journal of Social Work, vol. 42, 2012, p. 500-518

The fathers development project took place in 'Moorlandstown' during 2007-2008. Moorlandstown is a mixed urban and rural local authority in Northern England, with about 20% of its population from black and minority ethnic communities. The project was rooted in the Moorlandstown parenting strategy which aimed to systematically assess barriers preventing fathers from using services and to develop action plans based on an understanding of fathers' perceptions of how services needed to change. It allowed and required the authors to explore enabling and disabling factors impacting on the quality of services for fathers. Unfortunately, disabling factors tended to come to the fore, in spite of a theoretical recognition of the importance of working with fathers. There was negativity in many professional discourses and individual fathers were often invisible to or regarded as liabilities by practitioners. These attitudes were left insufficiently challenged in the absence of clear standards and sanctions promoting fathers' involvement and heightened by limited resources.

Gangs 'who own our streets led riots'

R. Mason

Daily Telegraph, May 10th 2012, p. 2

Simon Marcus, a charity boss appointed to investigate the August 2011 riots, attacked the government, local councils and the police for being 'in denial' about the gang culture behind the unrest. He claimed that few were willing to admit that 'an epidemic of father absence' had led to a vacuum filled by dangerous gangs that gave young people security, identity, loyalty and money.

Government adoption plans: the good, the bad and the bits missing altogether

J. Corbett

Professional Social Work, May 2012, p. 12

The UK government plans to have children fostered by approved potential adopters while the courts consider the case for adoption. This could carry risks for older children, because potential adopters cannot begin to attach to a child that could be returning to its birth family. What works better, in the author's experience, is the transition that many foster carers make into adoption.

Government's 'knee-jerk' adoption plan risks exacerbating problems


Professional Social Work, Apr. 2012, p.9

Changes to adoption law unveiled by the government include a proposal to prevent local authorities from delaying an adoption in the hope of finding a perfect match for a child if other suitable families are available. The ethnicity of a child and prospective adopters would, in most cases, come second to the speed of placing a child. The British Association of Social Workers has responded by insisting that, in order to reduce the risk of placement breakdown, the need to find the best possible match of a child to a family should not be sacrificed to speed. It argued that, in the light of the growing risk of adoption breakdowns and the increasing complexity of the needs of children being considered for adoption, priority should be given to more training for adopters, more investment in support services, and more social workers instead of to quick fixes.

Millburn tells Coalition: admit you will miss your child poverty targets

A. Grice

Independent, May 8th 2011, p. 2

Alan Milburn, the Government adviser on social mobility, urged ministers to admit they would miss a target to cut child poverty because of spending cuts and the ailing economy. The target, which was legally binding, was set by the Labour Government and accepted by the successor Coalition Government.

No 10 guide to changing nappies and baby talk

T. Ross

Daily Telegraph, May 18th 2012, p.1

Announces the launch of a new electronic Information Service for Parents aimed at providing NHS-approved advice on child rearing. The service would offer free email alerts and text messages giving practical advice on everything from teething to tantrums. Videos, which could be accessed on smart phones, included help with relaxation. Separate pilot schemes offered couples with young children free parenting classes and subsidised relationship counselling to help cope with 'tiredness' and 'mess'.

(See also Guardian, May 18th 2012, p. 9)

One in 25 barred after child safety vetting

M. Beckford

Daily Telegraph, May 8th 2012, p. 16

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act showed that between January 2009 and February 2011, 13,486 cases were referred to the Independent Safeguarding Agency (ISA) for investigation following allegations of abuse by professionals and volunteers working with children and vulnerable adults. Only 557 individuals were actually barred following investigation. Campaigners believed that unfounded and malicious allegations were made against innocent people, potentially blighting their careers.

Parents' evaluation of 'Understanding Your Child's Behaviour', a parenting group based on the Solihull approach

R. Johnson and H. Wilson

Community Practitioner, vol. 85, May 2012, p. 29-33

The Solihull Approach Parenting Group, Understanding Your Child's Behaviour, aims to help patents with universal to complex issues concerning children aged 0 to 18 years by enhancing the parent-child relationship and promoting a reflective style of parenting. The Solihull Approach has used the psychotherapeutic concept of containment, combined with the neurodevelopmental concept of reciprocity, and learning theory's behaviour management as the basis for developing a relationship model that focuses on providing a containing experience for parents so that they are able to be calm, process emotions and retain the capacity to think. This in turn enables them to be more in tune with their child's feelings and developmental needs so that, where necessary, they can use individualised, sensitive, and appropriate behaviour management strategies with their children. This study examined the views of 236 parents of all literacy levels who attended 37 programmes between 2005 and 2010. Ninety-five per cent of parents reported that they found the group relaxing; 89% found it very effective at helping them make changes to their parenting and 88% found it very helpful for understanding their children.

A presumption of shared parenting: long awaited or misguided?

D. Nickols

Family Law, May 2012, p. 573-576

Absent parents, and in particular fathers, have long complained of marginalisation and in response the Coalition government has proposed enshrining a presumption of shared parenting following family break up in legislation. This article argues that cases need to be considered on their individual merits and a blanket approach is not necessarily the answer. The courts benefit from the freedom to be creative with decisions whilst there being the assurance that they will be child-focused. The concern is that the proposal may resolve little and lead to increased acrimony rather than building agreements based on the child's needs.

Working together to keep children safe and well when parents have learning difficulties

J. Selbie

Community Practitioner, vol. 85, May 2012, p. 34-37

A serious case review, where parental learning difficulties were a factor in the serious injury of a child, prompted review and strengthening of the collaborative work between children's services and specialist adult learning disability services. This paper outlines the literature review and the focus group work that informed the development of a local protocol, which was endorsed by the Safeguarding Children Board.

Your port in this storm

J. Foulds

Professional Social Work, May 2012, p. 22-24

In the context of budget cuts, lost posts, and rising referral rates, safe social work practice in child protection has become both difficult and extremely stressful. The challenge for social workers and managers in difficult times is to stay child centred, avoid minimising or redefining risk, and remain strong advocates for children in need. This article reiterates that damage that abuse and neglect inflict on children, and reemphasizes the value of early intervention, careful assessments, good partnership working, critical reflection and analysis and brave decision making.

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