The safety of children and the parent-worker relationship in cases of child abuse and neglect

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Child protection work is complex and demanding and presents both parents and workers with a number of emotional and relationship demands. Although it is recognised that a good working alliance between child protection workers and parents is associated with therapeutic success and service user satisfaction, some current developments, including the growth of an audit culture with its attendant emphasis on targets and performance, appear to undermine the worker's ability to establish good relationships and working alliances. To the extent that poor-quality working relationships and increased emotional distance reduce the worker's capacity to be empathic, levels of stress for both parents and workers are likely to remain high. Heightened stress reduces the capacity of parents and workers to keep at-risk children in mind and in focus. This reduces their safety. The paper revisits the value of containment as a way of processing and managing difficult feelings which, along with more recent therapeutic concepts such as mentalisation, encourages workers to keep the parents' feelings in mind as well as hold the child in mind for the parent as a psychological, meaningful and mentalising being. Helping parents think about their feelings and understand, indeed celebrate, their children as burgeoning, independent psychological entities increases understanding, reduces stress and plays a part in helping keep children safe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-341
Number of pages12
JournalChild Abuse Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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