Protecting our Children

Posted on February 7th, 2012

Episode Two of the BBC 2 series Protecting our Children was on TV last night and it proved to be as fascinating as the first episode.  Last night we followed the plight of Marva and Shaun a young couple who were struggling to manage life whilst battling alcohol abuse and depression as well as significant loss for previous children who were removed from their care.

Marva was pregnant and after a number of overdoses made the decision to separate from Shaun and try to get herself well and in a position to keep their baby.   When the couple were together the Social Worker, Annie undertook visits to the home accompanied by two burly security men, who interestingly expressed concern for their own safety when Annie told them about Shaun reportedly training his new and evidently ferocious, pet ‘puppy’ to kill!  Seeing Annie knock on the door with two uniformed men behind her made me think of the many doors I knocked I have knocked on as a Social Worker, on my own, never knowing quite what I would be faced with or how my presence would be received once the door was opened – I suspect I would have felt a whole lot more confident knowing that there was someone there to step in if it all got a bit heated!

Following the couple’s separation Annie continued to work with both parents, keeping Shaun informed about Marva’s health and pregnancy.   I was disappointed when Annie went to visit Shaun, taking some photos of his new born son, a week after the birth and indeed Shaun expressed himself that he would have liked to have been told sooner that his child had been born.  Children’s Services have a history of poor engagement with fathers and at Avocet we find that we are still asked to undertake Independent Social Work assessments of fathers who have not been considered as an alternative carer and indeed the whole paternal family have been excluded from the process.   Shaun made the interesting point last night when he commented that it had been Marva not him who had been drinking alcohol and overdosing on over-the-counter medication putting their baby at risk of harm.

Marva was given the opportunity to care for her new born baby and was placed in a mother and baby foster placement but it was a matter of time before she returned to Shaun, taking her baby with her and exposing him to excessive alcohol consumption and subsequently having her baby removed from her care.

It was a moving life story and one that demonstrated the risks involved in the decision making.  I will not go into why the baby was able to be out of the placement for 14 hours before being found at Shaun’s flat as I do appreciate that an hour long programme can only fit in so much information.  There seemed to be a connection between the emotions felt by the Social Worker at the desperateness of the situation and the fact that two weeks after informing Marva that the local authority would be instigating legal proceedings she went off sick.  I thought that more could have been made about the fact that Annie was working with 14 other families, in addition to this one and that the implied stress is unlikely to have been because of just the one case.

Next week sees the final episode so don’t forget to tune in BBC2 Monday 13 February 2012 and if you would like to know more about Independent Social Work assessments undertaken with parents whose children are subject to legal proceedings please do visit our website at


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