Taking a child into care is always the last resort

7th March 2008 at 00:00
Working together: the social worker

How strong is your working relationship with teachers?

The school sees a child more than we ever will. They can report on the day-to-day behaviour, performance, academic achievement, how they settle and parents' involvement.

You have some teachers who are very keen to support families in making changes, working alongside us and keeping us in the loop.

Hertfordshire has set up school liaison officers to help teachers work with social services. Is that useful?

It's very important. At present, I am dealing with a child who has been difficult to place in school, so they have arranged an integration panel meeting, getting everyone who is working with the child and other school heads to come together to see how best we can get this child back into school.

How closely do you work with police?

Referrals can come through in relation to domestic violence incidents; a child may have been reported to us with non-accidental injury; a vulnerable adolescent may be out at night and the parents can't find them. We work very closely with the police, on a day-to-day basis.

Have there been times you felt unable to help as much as you'd have liked?

We do see distressing situations that can be heart-wrenching for me - as a person and as a parent.

It's disheartening when a family refuses to engage or does not acknowledge their responsibility. They may feel they are being attacked by other professionals, but they have played a significant role in the family's dysfunction.

It must be difficult to take a child out of the family and into care.

It's a last resort. It's certainly not the best part of the job, because we're here to keep families together. It's a decision that is not made lightly but is about the wellbeing of the child.

Sometimes social workers are criticised if they intervene too early. At other times they are criticised if they don't intervene soon enough.

I have a strong belief in my ability and a passion about the job. I believe all of us have something to contribute to our society. You trust yourself and you run with it.

Beverley Davy, 44, an initial assessment social worker in Hertfordshire, works closely with teachers to help children in danger.

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