Journal Article

Learning to Reduce Risk in Child Protection

Eileen Munro

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 40, issue 4, pages 1135-1151
Published in print June 2010 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online March 2010 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcq024
Learning to Reduce Risk in Child Protection

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This article argues for a systems approach to learning how to improve performance, conceptualising child protection services as complex, adaptive systems. This requires an acceptance of the complexity of the work, the essential role of professional judgement and the need for feedback loops in the system where lower-level workers are not afraid to communicate honestly about their experiences, both good and bad, and senior managers treat their feedback as a valuable source of learning. It is argued that current strategies to manage risk in child protection are, paradoxically, making it harder for professionals to learn how to protect children better. Three factors are identified as combining in such a way that they promote a culture in which professional practice is being excessively controlled and proceduralised: the person-centred approach to investigating child deaths, the blame culture and the performance management system. The way they reduce the opportunities for learning are explored.

Keywords: Child protection; complex systems; errors; organisational learning

Journal Article.  6717 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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