At the Front Door. Child Protection Reporting in a Changing Policy and Legislative Context.
Citation:WHELAN, SADHBH MARY, At the Front Door. Child Protection Reporting in a Changing Policy and Legislative Context., Trinity College Dublin.School of Social Work & Social Policy.SOCIAL WORK AND SOCIAL POLICY, 2018
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Aim: While a number of Irish studies have been conducted on the ?work world? of child protection and welfare services, reporting trends have not been interrogated in any depth. The primary aim of this doctoral study was to address that deficit and provide robust data on reporting trends to Tusla, the statutory provider of Irish child protection and welfare services. The initial stage of screening carried out when a report is received, termed the preliminary enquiry, was the focus of this study. Background: The child protection system in Ireland has been subject to recent legislative and policy reform, which aspires to early intervention within the context of a streamlined service delivery model. Added to this, the rate of reporting of suspected child abuse has risen exponentially over the past ten years and, with the pending introduction of mandatory reporting, it is expected to increase even further. In the context of such increasing pressure it is vital that new policies are informed by accurate information about the type, nature and source of reports received and the response made by the system to these reports. Methods: A case study design was employed in this doctoral research and comprised quantitative and qualitative analysis of all intake record forms (794 in total) created following reports received by one area of Tusla during a three month period in 2015. This data was supplemented by individual interviews and a focus group carried out with eight frontline practitioners and managers from the area. An exploratory analysis of the quantitative data was carried out to detect patterns of relationships between identified variables and test hypotheses based on referral patterns in existing research. The qualitative data was analysed using thematic analysis. Findings: This study has revealed in detail the nature of the difficulties reported to the system and a number of linkages between the difficulties reported and the sources of reports and outcome. It has shown educational personnel and lay people as responsible for substantial proportions of the children reported and has analysed the disparate difficulties reported by all sources of referrals. Reports categorised as ?welfare? accounted for the majority of referrals received and while reports with regard to children at risk of potential harm were appropriately and efficiently responded to, the system struggled to do likewise with more complex referrals. In an environment of high demand, low resources and time pressure it was found that decision making by practitioners was mediated through sense making strategies and localised norms and influenced by a range of factors such as resources rather than any guidance or policies afforded to them by their organisation. Conclusion: Overall, the findings suggest that given the integral importance of the preliminary enquiry stage in determining the future pathway of cases, attention must be given to the skill mix and available resources at the ?Front Door? to better meet the presenting need and in particular the difficulties that repeatedly present. This will be important when mandatory reporting is introduced.
Irish Research Council (IRC)
Trinity College Dublin (TCD)
Author: WHELAN, SADHBH MARY
Publisher:Trinity College Dublin. School of Social Work & Social Policy. Discipline of Social Studies
Type of material:Thesis
Availability:Full text available