Critical aspects of therapy in the context of child care legal proceedings: an emerging framework

Davies, Michael Glyn (2012) Critical aspects of therapy in the context of child care legal proceedings: an emerging framework. [Doctorate by public works]


During the last 10 years working intensively with families in the context of child-care legal proceedings I am struck by how their lives hinge precariously on the outcome of a professional's assessment of them. This is especially so with ‘experts’ who often act as final arbiters on a family’s viability by providing independent psychological, psychiatric or Social Work assessments. In some cases, during proceedings, a therapeutic issue often not previously known or considered viable can emerge requiring assessment before final decisions are made. It would appear that the families are not identified using any formula but by subjective measures in which chance plays a significant part. Using the authors experience as the focus of the study (heuristic inquiry) and in particular 5 cases that engaged in therapy and were successfully rehabilitated (case study) this study aims to: Identify critical aspects of therapy in this context; signpost professional activity so that families with potential are more easily identified; and harness the findings as part of an emerging framework. The professional context, and in particular, the ‘risk aversive’ professional culture was found to be influential in the parent-social worker relationship. Here conflict arising from the parent‟s defensiveness and the ambiguity in the Social work role was found to prevent meaningful dialogue with conflict intensifying as legal proceedings unfolded. Aspects of ‘early work and engagement’ was found to be critical in overcoming parents’ defensiveness, revealing the authentic parent, and laying the basis for change. 4 levels of therapy are recommended to address the complex, multi-dimensional aspect of this work. The significance of parent‟s narrative and associated selfidentity issues are also referred to. Findings from the study are utilised in an emerging framework that also illustrates assessment criteria and variations of parent’s defensiveness. The study emphasises the fact that families embroiled in legal proceedings are often from marginalised sections of our society and struggle to be relational in a context of formal professional activity. Recommendations are made for therapy and wider professional activity.

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