In social work assessments, professional opinion can often be recorded as fact (Community Care)
As a charity professional who advocates for birth, adoptive and foster families it increasingly worries me that the ‘truth’ in assessments for child protection and/or family support needs can be a version totally unfamiliar to the families who are recipients of the assessments.
Being determined to receive the support the children needed did not make me popular and it would not be exaggerating to say it made me unpopular. This is reflected in some file recordings and the minutes of some multi-agency meetings.
We eventually got the support the children deserved and through official complaints an alternative narrative exists on the files. No apologies, of course.
Thankfully, I wasn’t fighting to keep my children from removal and I had resources and family networks to prevent us going down completely.
My experience of asking for help and being misrepresented was in part what motivated me to contact my adopted and fostered children’s parents despite their very negative appearance in social work files and reports.
If my words and intentions could be twisted to come out as negative then what chance could they have had to be heard through the child protection files that would eventually become their children’s life story?
It would be good practice that alongside child protection social workers, independent recorders could directly gather a parent and/or wider family’s history and experience so that such a document is placed alongside others. Gathering a child’s life story is urgent at this point, and should not be started years later by a non-family member.
A truthful life story is crucial to identity, belonging and self esteem, especially the good bits but even the tough bits.