Child neglect and the law: Catapults, thresholds and delay

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41 Citations (Scopus)


This paper discusses the dilemmas and challenges that arise when child neglect cases reach such a level of severity that court proceedings become necessary. It identifies the complexities of determining the appropriate social work and legal responses to child neglect, and of squaring these with wider organisational priorities and social policy imperatives. The paper draws on data from a series of interviews with local authority social work and legal staff. It highlights the ‘threshold criteria’ for the court's intervention, barriers to crossing them in neglect cases and the frequent need for a decisive event (a ‘catapult’) to do so. It shows the conflicts and tensions of reconciling social work and legal approaches, but also the overlaps and inter-dependency between them. Despite the difficulties, the way forward lies in the interaction of different professional perspectives and skills, in ways that are both critical and supportive.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-92
Number of pages16
JournalChild Abuse Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007

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