How Child-Focused are Child Protection Conferences?

Richardson Foster, Helen orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1871-1578, Barter, Christine Anne orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-5682-5333, Churchill, Harriet and Stanley, Nicky orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7644-1625 (2021) How Child-Focused are Child Protection Conferences? Child Abuse Review, 30 (5). pp. 458-472. ISSN 0952-9136

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Child protection conferences (CPCs) are multiagency meetings that are central to child protection procedures in the UK. They bring together practitioners, parents and children to consider whether a child has experienced significant harm and, if so, what action is required to protect him or her in future. This article presents findings from a qualitative study of CPCs in two areas in central England which explored the extent to which conferences are ‘child-focused’ events. Data were gathered from audio recordings and documentary analysis of 14 initial and review conferences, 15 interviews with conference staff and six focus groups with 35 practitioners from a range of agencies. A four-part conceptualisation of child-focused practice was used to analyse practice in conferences. Children's participation in CPCs was found to be low, and child-focused decision-making and planning were rarely achieved. The findings emphasise the importance of pre-conference work with children and families, and the central role of the conference chair. These findings are compared to those of the landmark ‘studies in child protection’ research published by the Department of Health almost 26 years ago to determine if improvements in child protection conference practice have occurred.

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