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Pre-Birth Assessment in Social Work

Hodson, Ann (2011) Pre-Birth Assessment in Social Work. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

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    Abstract

    The Children Act 1989 imposes a duty on Local Authorities in England to ‘safeguard and
    promote the welfare of children’ and to ‘promote the upbringing of children by their families’
    wherever possible. If, during pregnancy, concerns are identified that suggest the child may be
    at risk of harm a referral may be made to the Local Authority for a pre-birth assessment.
    When completing a pre-birth assessment social workers and other professionals are often
    involved in the process of collecting and analysing information, which will ultimately be used as a basis for planning and decision-making and can have life long consequences for the family. Removing a baby at birth brings with it an inevitable impact on the process of attachment and bonding, as well as the impact of subjecting a family to court proceedings and all of the
    emotions that entails. However, allowing a baby to be discharged from hospital to a family
    who are unable to provide appropriate care and protection or do not have the necessary
    support in place to assist them may result in irreparable harm to, or even the death of the
    baby.

    Sitting within the context of general child and family social work assessment, pre-birth
    assessment has received a very limited amount of specific research attention. This thesis
    comprises a report on the outcomes of my own research, which was exploratory in nature, and
    details the findings from a mixed methods study of relevant legal and procedural frameworks
    in England, Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures and a case study of pre-birth social
    work assessment practice in one Local Authority.

    The findings were that pre-birth assessment is a complex process guided by a national and
    local procedural framework which does not recognise the unique status of the unborn child.
    Having evolved from a historical perspective based on protecting live children, the procedural
    guidance is contradictory as it does not acknowledge that an unborn child has no legal status and a pregnant woman maintains rights over her own body. The case study also revealed that
    social workers in the host LA were practising in an environment of managerial systems which
    aimed to improve accountability and yet the very systems designed to ensure children did not
    fall through the ‘safety net’ of professional support were, ironically, prompting systems which
    made practice in (and research into) pre-birth social work assessment a challenge. A narrow
    forensic approach to pre-birth assessment was found to have developed, with the documentary
    process of completing pre-birth Initial and Core Assessments (as defined by the Department of
    Health (2003) documentation) becoming split from the process of actually ‘doing’ a social work
    pre-birth assessment.

    Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
    Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
    R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
    Schools: School of Human and Health Sciences
    Depositing User: Lauren Hollingworth
    Date Deposited: 27 Mar 2012 15:33
    Last Modified: 27 Mar 2012 15:33
    URI: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/13037

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