For child protection social workers no two situations are the same. They learn the rules about how to protect children and there are clear boundaries. But each individual family and their circumstances are unique. When the situation gets bad, the last resort for social workers is to take the matter to court and ask for the child to be removed from the parents. Conversely sometimes they can make the rewarding decision that it’s right to return a child to his or her parents to live in the family home again.
In this observational film the three interweaving stories demonstrate different levels of urgency in these decisions due to different levels of risk.
Wayne and Louise are recovering drug addicts. Mercedes, Louise’s baby, is removed at birth due to their drug habits. The baby is placed in temporary care while the social workers encourage Wayne and Louise to prove their abstinence and assess whether they are capable of being proper parents for Mercedes. Although time is immediately pressing for the baby to ensure the right development and attachment, there are months before a final decision needs to be made.
On other occasions there’s not a moment to lose. When the report comes into social workers from a health worker that a child may be sexually abused by the partner of the mother they go to the house immediately with police to persuade the mother to leave immediately with her son. But what happens if the mother won’t be persuaded about the risk?
In other circumstances social workers are alerted by housing officers that a flat is in a poor condition, unhygienic for the seven year-old girl living there with her mother. Once the girl is placed in safe conditions with extended family it means the social workers can work with the mother to help get her and the flat back on course, knowing that the girl is safe.
What unifies these circumstances is making sure that a safe secure environment is put in place for the child. But that’s easier said than done…
Protecting Our Children is on BBC Two and the BBC HD Channel Mondays at 9.00pm