Search This Blog

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Child Maltreatment Fatalities - Questioning Assumptions

New research just published by Emily Douglas in the United States questions some long held beliefs about the workers involved in child maltreatment fatality cases within child protection systems. As she points out at the beginning of her article:

Some argue that the child welfare profession is out of control: workers who
experience fatalities are young, inexperienced, and lack professional training, and they miss warning signs leading up to the deaths
Indeed, there has been much criticism of the failings of the child protection systems when a child dies. One needs only recall the ,media frenzy in the UK around the cases of Victoria Climbie and Peter Connelly.

About 30 - 40 % of children who die from maltreatment will be known to child protection, she advises. Douglas' research however, tells us that workers did know their families and that, unlike previous suggestions, workers tended to not be new and inexperienced. The workers in her sample were not overly burdened with high case loads, although she may not have fully explored whether these more experienced workers were handling much more complex cases. The workers felt that they had the skills needed to manage the cases and also that they were appropriately supported. She notes that 27% saw that the fatality was likely unavoidable.

Douglas' sample was small and retrospective - limitations that she notes. However, her research does open up new understandings of these cases and the workers managing them. This is an important addition to the conversation. Hopefully, it leads to further work.


Douglas, E.M. (2013). Child welfare workers who experience the death of a child client. Administration in Social Work, 37 (1), 59-72. 

No comments:

Post a Comment