In this example of a critical reflective log, I will focus on the social work
PCF domain 2: Values and Ethics
I will also draw on other domains such as values and ethics, rights, justice and economic well-being, critical reflection and analysis, diversity and knowledge.
Task: The Assessment Process
Example of Critical Reflective Log | Values and Ethics
Following repeated allegations that an X -year-old male child (D) has been sexually abused by a known and unknown male. Children’s services were asked to carry out an assessment to determine if D is being sexually abused or is at risk of significant harm.
D has a close relationship with both his father (F) and Mother (M) however, both parents are no longer together and they both share parental responsibility.
The parents maintain the court direction, granting F alternative weekends with his son and 50% holidays when the school is on half-term. Contact had been consistent until the 1st April 2017; however, the Police recently removed D from his father’s care because of concerns of sexual abuse while in the care of his father.
D’s school has also reported that his behaviour has deteriorated over the last few weeks. He has exhibited signs of aggressiveness and anger.
D is at risk of sexual abuse
D is at risk of emotional abuse
The history of sexualised behaviour
D’s deterioration in his behaviour
D has displayed sexual behaviour inappropriate for his age
I was asked to co-work with an experienced social worker. I felt this case was complicated because there had been an extensive involvement with the family over the last 5 years.
I spoke to the social worker who worked on the case in the past. She gave me some useful information into what to expect on this assessment from both parents. Initially, I felt that this would help me prepare for the assessment as I would know what to expect. However, I realised that this made me prejudge the parents, which might cloud my judgement and prevent me from carrying out a fair and proportionate assessment with this family.
I thought of reading through the case notes and medical reports to determine the chronology of events. I felt that this would help me understand the family structure, inter-relationships and any complexities involved within the family unit. I was also interested in finding out, especially the historic background of the case and the outcome.
Writing up the chronology helped in my understanding of the family structure and various professional views on the situation in the past. I realised that it was alleged by the mother that D had gone through some sort of sexual abuse. However, as there had been no evidence to support her claim, the allegations could not be substantiated.
I arranged the initial visit for both parents and D. After my meeting with dad; I felt that he was honest in his answers and description of events.
After my meeting with mother and D, I felt that D was honest with his disclosure. He told me what his father and an unknown male had done to him. He described what happened when he was in his father’s care a few weeks ago. However, D still expressed the wish to see his father because he loves him. According to Davis (2014) what a child wants and what is best for him are not always the same.
I felt that as D still wanted to see his father, on this occasion, it was appropriate for children’s services to arrange supervised contact. During the supervised contact, I observed D to be calm and relaxed in the presence of his father. I also felt that D’s father was initially careful with his choice of words and how he interacted with D, however, later he was more relaxed.
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Theories and methods
S47 of the Children Act (1989) places a duty on local authorities to carry out enquiries as they consider necessary and decide whether to take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare. Enquiries are carried out when the local authority is informed that a child who lives in the area is the subject of an emergency protection order or is in police protection. D was removed from his father’s care under a police protection order.
Initially, an assessment was then carried out to find out if children services can provide s17 services however, we held a child protection conference as children services had reasonable cause to suspect that D was suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm.
Signs of Safety (SoS) approach are a strengths-based and safety-focused approach to child protection work and are grounded in partnership and collaboration (Franklin et al., 2016).
Turnell and Edwards (1997) argue that the SoS risk assessment process combines professional knowledge with local family and cultural knowledge, and balances a rigorous exploration of danger/harm alongside indicators of strengths and safety.
This approach was used to maintain a relationship with the family of D by focusing on specific, observable behaviours rather than by using loaded judgemental terms are more likely to work against cooperation.
Based on a strength and family model, some strengths identified in the child protection conference was that D was a brave and intelligent boy, weaknesses identified included the fact that he may have been sexually or emotionally abused.
He was also exhibiting some inappropriate behaviour at school such as masturbating using a pencil case. His behaviour at home has also deteriorated as he gets quite angry and sometimes moody.
Grey areas identified include the fact that the alleged male who sexually abused D at his father’s house is unknown.
Prior to meeting with both parents, my mind was clouded with mixed sentiments. I was mindful of what the previous social worker had said in regard to how difficult the case was when she carried out an assessment in the past.
Knott and Scragg (2007, p6) remind us that “it is easy to reinforce previously held opinions about people and situations which may lead to prejudice and discriminatory practice if we do not recognise what we are using to make sense of reflections”.
Having an unconscious bias and being discriminatory can hinder collaborative practice with service users. To remain non-judgmental and practice in an anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive manner, I approached the case with an open mind.
Thompson (2006) uses the PCS model to analyse discriminatory behaviour, showing how it occurs at the personal, cultural and societal level. A social worker who does not properly reflect on their assumptions, can bring all three levels into their work.
Such assumptions, clouds our judgement and analysis, resulting in unfair outcomes for the service user.
For instance, I was more worried about the D’s father than I was about his mother because I felt he had to go through unnecessary court battles because of allegations made against him by D’s mother.
Therefore, it is important that I am self-aware and constantly reflect to help improve outcomes for the service user and foster collaborative working relationships.
Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1989 states that everyone has the right to respect for private and family life, however, this is a qualified right and there can be some interference with this right for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
D was found to be at risk of significant harm in his father’s care and for that reason his Article 8 right can be breached in order to protect the health, rights and freedom of D.
In addition, Davis (2014) states that where the rights of parent and child conflict, the ECtHR has determined that, if any balancing of interests is necessary, the child prevails (case Yousef v Netherlands, 2003).
Davis, L. (2014). The Social Workers Guide to Children and Families Law. (2nd ed.). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Franklin, C., Trepper, T., Wallace, G., & McCollum, E. (2016). Solution-Focused Brief Therapy – A Handbook of Evidence-Based Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Morales, A & Sheafor, B. W. (2007). Social work: A profession of many faces.
(9th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon
Rothman, J. C. (1999). The Self-awareness Workbook for Social Workers. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Thompson, N. (2006). Anti-Discriminatory Practice.
London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Turnell, A., & Edwards, S. (1997). Aspiring to Partnership. The Signs of Safety approach to child protection. Child Abuse Review, 6(3), 179-190. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-0852(199708)6:3<179::AID-CAR324>3.0.CO;2-J