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Monday, March 10, 2014

Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result? Insanity?

You might well ask this question upon reading the new report from the Irish Ombudsman for Children, titled A meta-analysis of repetitive root cause issues regarding the provision of services for children in care. While the title is not likely to push this report to the best sellers lists, it should be read by child protection agencies everywhere. The Ombudsman, Emily Logan, pertinently asks why the same issues are being investigated repeatedly. In many ways, this could have been asked in a multitude of jurisdictions.

The report identifies concerns in 7 areas:

  1. Assessment and care planning - "Effective intervention for each individual child depends upon a clear assessment and understanding of his/her needs" (p. 11)
  2. Record keeping - The report sees this as a way to help focus action.
    1. plan work with service users;
    2. aid assessment and decision making processes
    3. monitor staff's involvement with service users
    4. monitor and review progress of set objectives and goals
    5. monitor and review plans for children
    6. provide an accurate account to a child as to the decisions made in relation to them and why (pp.14-15)
  3. Provision of residential care - this raises the concerns around multiple placements and those that are inappropriate  for the needs of the child
  4. Child protection for children in care - on p. 18 the report states that "The previous life experiences of many children in care have exposed them to increased risk of victimization. They have the right to expect and receive protection from within the child care system.
  5. Social work practice and supervision - The report outlines that the public have expectations of high quality service from well trained workers. "However, social work is not well understood and public confidence is frequently influenced by the media's handling of individual cases" (p. 19). In this section, the report goes on to state a crucial conclusion: "If alternative care arrangements (foster care and residential care) are to promote stability and resilience it must promote opportunities for children to develop secure attachments." (italics added). Too often the child is lost in the process and instability is the result of poor management.
  6. Interprofessional and multi-agency collaboration - This is an issue that is seen in multitudes of reports on child protection errors.
  7. Governance arrangements - a clear focus on why an agency exists and how it is fulfilling its mandate
The report makes a profound and often forgotten statement on p. 19:

It is important to recognize that social workers are the lead professional group which assists the Sate in protecting children from harm through neglect, abuse or exploitation
The report also does an excellent job of covering the international obligations for children arising from United Nations conventions that many countries have signed.

I am finally struck by the reports use of the term corporate parenting. This is a concept that is often lost. It is indeed the State who acts as the parent for children in care in most jurisdictions. How accountable is the state for its actions? This is an important question that we should be asking on a frequent basis.

This report is crucial. It asks the hard questions that need asking - particularly if we continue to repeat the same errors across multiple jurisdictions as my own research is showing.


  1. This report is 'good' but lacks review of methods to make everyone in the child protection business / foster care system personally accountable either by civil law or criminal law and an auditing/inspection system that can spot and enforce corrective action. The grueling abuse of 'Oliver Twist' is alive and well and a discredit to every democracy that harbors it. Canada and the USA are just as bad including government funded 'deprogramming' of Canadian Indian children in the Residential Schools to take the "Indian out of the Indian" that went on into the 1950's including the use of electric chairs to torture children!! Learn how "Children's Aid Societies" (CAS) abuse kids in Canada today: www.CanadaCourtwatch.ORG

  2. There Don't seem to mention any thing about a child's biological parents.