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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Blame the worker or blame the system?

There is a case unfolding in Richmond, Virginia in the USA in which several child protection files may have been closed improperly. There is a possibility that this has placed a number of children at risk. The story has been reported in the Richmond Times. What strikes me is the way in which the media can so easy seek out the social worker scapegoat. They named the social worker.

Yet this story also raises the oft repeating themes of too many cases, too few workers and weak management. What matters for me here is the ways in which workers could not seek out their leadership to gain support. Rather, they started to fly on their own as they seemed to fear the repercussions of supervision.

If there is a strong lesson to be learned from the multitude of death review that have taken place in numerous countries it is that effective supervision can be a protective factor. When workers can go to their supervisors and review what is happening with cases, then they are able to get a different persecutive on the case. This opens up options and can improve case management.

This case should help us to reflect on the power of good supervision. Even if, as the news report suggested, the worker acted on her own, one has to wonder about the divide between supervisor and worker that the system would allow such actions to take place without alarms going off. This says a lot about how a system should work that was not happening here.


  1. Hi Peter. It is interesting to note that you are talkiing about issues which concern me as well. I will follow your posts from now on. If you are interested you can follow me at

    1. Thanks Tony. Your blog also looks interesting so I am following it. Peter

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  4. Hello Peter. Wanted to say I just found your blog. Excellent stuff and so nice to read a balanced view of the child protection system. As a worker in the field I look forward to your continued insight and posts in hopes of challenging myself and making me a better worker. Many thanks for creating such a thoughtful blog.