Reid, James and Murphy, T. (2009) Lost identities and the need for a framework for intervention. In: Children and the Law: International approaches to children and their vulnerabilities, 7-10 September 2009, Prato, Tuscany, Italy. (Unpublished)

In the UK the public discourse on separated families is rich with the stereotypes of 'deadbeat dads' and 'obstructive mums'. It is the author’s view that these stereotypes are also common in public service social work with families, in part encouraged by uncritical approaches to assessment perpetuated by mandated tools such as the Framework for Assessment of Children in Need and their Families (DH, 2000), the Common Assessment Framework (2005) and the Integrated Children’s System (2005). There are continuing concerns about the quality of assessments and that good practice in this regard is inhibited by managerialist and bureaucratic approaches.

One negative outcome of this, particularly for children in contested contact proceedings, is denied familial and cultural experiences and lost identity. The myth of the ‘deadbeat’ and ‘obstructive’ parent means that many non-resident parents are anonymous in practitioner’s minds and records, not helped as many children’s stories are reduced to a ‘cut and paste’ approach to assessment. Such anonymity means that possibilities offered by the non-resident parent’s family, culture and community are denied and unavailable to the child.

The authors believe that a Framework for Intervention is necessary of which assessment would be one part. This paper critiques contemporary public social work practice with children and their families in the UK and explores the possibilities of better outcomes for children offered by Framework for Intervention.

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