Back to Decision making and initial child protection conferences

Involving parents in the child protection conference

Parents/caregivers must always be actively encouraged to attend the child protection conference, because they should have a significant contribution to make

(Except if there are specific reasons to exclude them, see below Determining whether it is in the child’s best interests for a parent to attend a child protection conference).

An effective, child-centred, working partnership with parents and family members underpins practitioners’ ability to address the child’s care and support protection needs.

In order to achieve this relationship (Section 3 Part 1, engaging parent/s and caregivers in Section 47 enquiries) practitioners must be open and honest.

The social worker initiating the conference must therefore:

Preparing the parent/caregiver to participate in the conference

Parents/caregivers must receive adequate preparation from a social worker prior to the conference.

The aim is to enable them to participate as fully as possible. This includes:

Pointers for Practice: Preparing Parent/s for Child Protection Conferences

Supporting parents or caregivers to participate in the child protection conference

Remember attendance alone is not participation.

Unless there are circumstances that determine parents should not attend, parents/caregivers should always be actively encouraged to attend and participate in the conference for the following reasons:

All practitioners who have face-to-face contact with the family should support and encourage attendance, unless there are reasons that mean the chair needs to consider excluding the parent/s. For example, the suspected perpetrator has bail conditions of no contact or a restraining order against them in relation to the other parent.

Attendance by parents can be facilitated by:

Where a parent/caregiver does not to attend the conference, efforts should be made to ensure their views, wishes and feelings are represented and recorded.

An advocate can help develop this communication.

Immediately prior to conference

The conference chair must meet parents beforehand, preferably in the conference room before the other people attending arrive.

They should ensure the parent understands:

Immediately after the conference

If the conference members decide to place the child’s name on the child protection register, the chair and social worker should spend time after the conference explaining:

If parents disagree with the conference decision, they should be informed about the Regional Safeguarding Board complaints and/or appeals procedure.

Parents may feel overwhelmed, anxious and distressed at the end of the conference. These feelings will impact on their ability to make sense of any information imparted to them at this point. It is important therefore, in order to engage with parents in a meaningful manner, that time is spent de-briefing the parent/s and preparing them for core group working on the plan in the days immediately following the conference.

Follow-up

Whether the parents attend the conference or not, they should be sent in writing within 5 working days of the conference.

Role of social worker

The social worker should discuss the recommendations with the parents and child to ensure they understand the reasons and implications of the decision. This may require discussion of contingency plans or consequences if the child protection plan is not complied with or proves ineffective.

Sharing records of the conference with the family

The child protection conference records should also be sent to parents and, where appropriate, the child except where the child or any other person could be put at risk as a result.

The decision as to whether to send the records should be made by the chair, in consultation with the conference members.

They determine:

and

Reasons for a decision not to send records to relevant family members should be carefully recorded.

Determining whether it is in the child’s best interests for a parent to attend a child protection conference

In rare circumstances a parent or caregiver will not be invited to attend a child protection conference.

Any practitioner can request the exclusion of a parent/caregiver from the conference.

N.B. requests to not include parents in the conference must be linked to issues pertaining to risk to child, or others and cannot be used as a mechanism for not sharing information or fear of damaging ongoing working relationships with parents/caregivers.

The practitioner should:

The chair should:

If a person with parental responsibility is to be excluded:

Accommodating family members: considerations

Whilst parents must be encouraged to attend, this should not be at the cost of the child who wishes to be present not attending.

It may not always be possible to accommodate all family members at the same time.

For example: