Principles of Practice to enhance resilience and inform intervention. A summary of a Keynote presented at the Association of Video Interaction Guidance UK (AVIGUK) International Conference in Glasgow ‘Video Interaction Guidance – Closing the Gap’ May 2017, by Professor Brigid Daniel.
Report by Shauna Gorey
Professor Brigid Daniel is currently Dean of Arts, Social Sciences and Management at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. She is a registered social worker with practice experience in intake and children and families work. She is the academic advisor to WithScotland – a national hub of expertise based at Stirling University that aims to enhance research and practice in child welfare and protection in Scotland
Her keynote presentation focused on childhood neglect and resilience based interventions. Professor Daniel highlighted the principles of practice in responding to child adversity and neglect through the use of resilience based interventions, whilst also emphasising the need to support practitioners to provide authoritative practice with child neglect that is informed by the learning from what we understand about resilience.
Professor Daniel began her presentation by referring to neglect and unmet needs. Interestingly, Daniel made a point that neglect can be seen from two perspectives; neglect children experience as a direct impact from their family environment, but also the experience of neglect at a state level, which has stemmed from structural factors, and the direct impact that austerity measures has on families. The concept of state neglect is increasing due to the growing effect of cuts and austerity, with clear links between poverty, inequality and neglect. It was highlighted that as professionals, it is now necessary to think about the approach we take with parents to tackle such neglect and be smart in our practice. Emotional neglect was referred to by Daniel as the most detrimental type of neglect, as emotional neglect can be seen as ‘the air some children have to breath’, (Minty, 2005). Living constantly in a world where one experiences persistent emotional neglect can shape children’s negative perceptions of themselves and how they view the world around them. Emotional abuse and neglect have been found to have the biggest impact on negative childhood experiences, which has been connected to long term disadvantages through the lifespan. Children are most likely to be registered on the child protection register for concerns of emotional abuse (39 per cent) and neglect (37 per cent). However, Professor Daniel points out that the continuum of neglect is so wide ranging, and is met with a lot of issues around the understanding of neglect. The children’s hearing system in Scotland’s key ground for referral is ‘a lack of parental care’, which can comprise a wide continuum of factors under the umbrella of ‘lack of parental care’. Professor Daniel emphasised the fact there may be many more children suffering from neglect, often the children you may worry about at night, or the children that find it too hard to talk. Professor Daniel identified the fact that as a society, we are not strong at effectively counting the prevalence of neglect. Daniel referred to several studies in the UK that have aimed to identify the neglect count: Radford et al (2011) proposed that 1 in 10 children are experiencing neglect at any given time. The DSRU (2014) projected that 1 in 5 children in Scotland are in need in some shape or form. A study by Raws (2016) found that one in seven in 7 14-15 year olds have reported that they experience harm or neglect from parents. This statistic is quite worrying because as we know, children tend to be quite loyal to parents, even when experiencing difficulties in the home environment. The extent of neglect may be underreported due to the ability to apply neglect to a spectrum of unmet need and associated risk.
Throughout the key note Professor Daniel placed stress the term ‘cumulative harm’. Professor Daniel defined cumulative harm as chronic neglect or harm experienced by children over a period of time, and the importance to recognise long term effects that accumulation can have on our children and young people. Professor Daniel pointed out that in the UK, we have struggled with understanding of the chronicity of neglect and is often chronic versus acute incidents. Professor Daniel Daniels called that we need to gain a real understanding of the impact of the accumulation of negative experiences and adversity on children and young people.
A population with reference to cumulative harm that can often overlook is the adolescent population. A cause for concern is usually raised through the youth justice system, by then this population usually identified as ‘troublesome’ rather that ‘troubled’. Adolescent neglect may be found when there is changes in composition of household, home, being abandoned, being forced to leave the home or being included in drug cultures. The young person may find it h it hard to cope with change, thus parenting may become more difficult due to behaviours developing from change in a young person’s life. Combined with an accumulation of several factors of change, parenting may become unsustainable and unmanageable for the carers (Hicks and Stein, 2010). Professor Daniel emphasised that the number of young people becoming homeless is a major problem in our society and we must do more to tackle the problem through early identification and prevention, however, we have to think intelligently on how to manage this as it is more likely that know early intervention and prevention programmes are most likely to be cut during times of austerity.
The use of GIRFEC for Assessment of Need and Support
What, as a society do we need to offer to support families and care for children? Professor Daniel pointed out that not one simple ‘off the shelf’ intervention will address these issues. The national practice model of Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) is useful for thinking about and exploring neglect. GIRFEC offers a multidisciplinary approach where practitioners from varying disciplines use a common language to converse about family’s needs, GIRFEC indicators offers a tool for professionals to have a clear picture of where a child’s development should be, thus also then highlighting where children’s needs are not actually being met. The GIRFEC framework supports us in overcoming the artificial divide between need and risk, as neglected children and families are both in risk and are in need. Using a GIRFEC approach can offer a tool in assessing the type of support and protection a family requires.
Professor Daniel emphasised the importance of resilience throughout her presentation. She acknowledged that we know children are more likely to develop when they have security, self-esteem, and a self of self-efficacy. We also know that neglected children have less resilience, less secure attachments, and less access to wider protective processes. There are high inequalities in life for these children and they are more likely to miss out on day to day activities that can enhance children’s resilience. Wider engagement in the world tends to be brokered by parents, and there can be several barriers for parents to access wider engagement activities for their children.
Daniel suggested that‘’ we need to think about an empathic approach to parents whose children have been neglected for whatever reason’’. An authoritative approach may be the answer to approaches used in practice. An authoritative approach is combining and empathetic and sensitive manner with parents, whilst also being able to keep a keen eye on children’s day to day experiences. An authoritative approach can be supported by the use of resilience based methods in practice. The use of resilience based approaches highlights positivity and hopefulness. Resilience based approaches opposes low self-efficacy and a sense of hopelessness experienced by those who have or are experiencing neglect, and can offer hope for those and for those professionals who are working with neglect. Professor Daniel stressed that we need to immobilise protective processes, building self-efficacy, social competence, and resilience. We need good attuned people around neglected children that can that can connect with the child and can offer positive resilience streams.
Professor Daniel then directed us towards intervention. She accentuated that we need evidence based interventions, but they must be tailored to specific need. It’s about using evidence based programmes that can be effective, but has to be sensitively delivered and the deliverer must be attuned to the complexity of the processes in implementing interventions for the neglected population.
Professor Daniel also emphasised findings of a literature search that focused on child protection interventions. The importance of relationships was highlighted again and again for the effectiveness of child protection interventions with reference to stakeholders understanding how relationships work and having a grounded understanding of connection which supported the effectiveness of intervention. We need long term sustained approaches to intervention, and we must accept that people need long term support. Positive relationships can act as a basis for this.
The Role of Video Interaction Guidance in Resilience Intervention
Video Interaction Guidance (VIG) can clearly support resilience based approaches through ‘I have’, ‘I am’ and ‘I can’ (Grotberg, 1997), by promoting attuned interactions, supporting positive relationships and enhancing both children and parents self-efficacy. VIG is built on the basis of the importance of relationships. Having attuned interactions between workers and workers, workers and parents and parents and children supports the integrating and locking of significant key relationships.
VIG can also offer professionals a resilience based way of working by becoming more attuned to individual children and the needs of families. VIG can be used in schools to nurture resilience. We know that children who have been neglected have low senses of self-efficacy and find it difficult to engage in schools. These children often have a low sense of achievement and often feel defeated, even before they attempt a task. An effective teacher can help foster resilience in students by being attuned which can support the child to develop positive social skills and thus helping the development of the child’s self-efficacy. Schools may work creatively with parents through the use of resilience based interventions to develop connections with families and promote children’s resilience throughout their education.
Positive attachments and relationships are crucial in the adolescent phase. Professionals and parents that guide and support adolescents to make positive choices, or use the way they cope that is beneficial for them is based on opportunities for attuned interactions, and how we can use our interactions for this population to the best effect to support them as they grow and develop into adults.
Professor Daniel concluded on a note to think about the 5th wave of resilience. Professor Daniel described this as overcoming adversity, whilst also potentially subtly changing, or transforming, aspects of that adversity. Professor Daniel argued that more collective approaches need to take place to challenge adversity. When adversities are linked to inequality and disadvantage, there is potential for resilience based interventions to contain an emancipatory function. Groups can be developed to challenge and empower. Professor Daniel directed the audience to refer to the work that is taking place in Head Start, Brighton, which has been focussing on structural factors of resilience.
Dr Brigid Daniel, ‘Closing the gap’ AVIGuk Conference 2017
Dartington Social Research Unit (DSRU) (2014). Annual Report. https://dartington.org.uk/inc/uploads/DSRU%20Annual%20Report%202015%20WEB-SINGLES%20HR.pdf
Hicks, L., & Stein, M. (2010). Neglect matters: a multi-agency guide for professionals working together on behalf of teenagers.
Grotberg, E. (1997). The international resilience project. A charge against society: the child’s right to protection, 19-32.
Minty, B. (2005). The nature of emotional child neglect and abuse. Child neglect: Practice issues for health and social care, 57-72.
Radford, L., Corral, S., Bradley, C., Fisher, H., Bassett, C., Howat, N., & Collishaw, S. (2011). Child abuse and neglect in the UK today.
Raws, P. (2016). Understanding Adolescent Neglect: Troubled Teens.