View Full Version : Social services

01-12-2015, 11:43 PM
Hi guys,

Does anyone have any experience or knowledge of how social services work in regards to children at home with a parent who's considered to be unable to look after them?

How would they generally find out about the situation?

What would the process be to investigate? Home visits?

What about if the parent was good, but something happened and the grieving process then made them temporarily "unsuitable" to be a parent? Would it be different because of the situation?

Thanks for any help :)

01-12-2015, 11:46 PM
Is this in Britain?

01-12-2015, 11:50 PM
How old are the children?

If they're playgroup age, playgroup staff are expected to report anything concerning to SS.

Older than that, and schoolteachers are expected to do similar (there will be a specific teacher at the school with responsibility for child protection). Similar for any clubs they attend - if the club is run by volunteers there's normally a nominated child protection officer on the committee.

01-13-2015, 12:09 AM
To be clear, you want social services to find out?

Depending on how kids are raised and age and character - so cooking, clothes washing etc, it may not be immediately obvious if they are taking up the slack domestically.

01-13-2015, 01:39 AM
Neighbours, possibly parents of the childrens' playmates, could report concerns if e.g. the kids were unwashed and always hungry.

Debbie V
01-13-2015, 09:39 AM
A friend of mine was reported by the school because her son got scabies. (This is the reason given to me by my friend.)

Another friend was reported by her sister who lives in another state. The sister got the impression from conversation among the family that their child wasn't being well cared for.

Both cases were unfounded to the point of ridiculous - one was expunged from the record completely as the child's mother was looking for teaching positions and the record would have kept her from getting a job. Both boys involved have special needs. Investigators visit the home, speak with the children and parents, look for issues of cleanliness, etc.

They may also talk to family and neighbors. We were never questioned. I also think they visit the school. But I'm not sure there either.

The parents were mortified at the mere suggestion. One was quite angry with her sister.

01-14-2015, 12:44 AM
Note - this is from the UK perspective, and written as what I roughly regard as their 'normal' behaviour. Sources are first, second and third hand.

1/ The 'warning signals'.

Most of Social's infomation comes from other agencies - health, education and police. As mentioned before, some families can be very good at hiding / coping with these. If the kids are old / mature enough to take up the slack, money isn't an issue and they don't give any obvious reasons to be noticed, it could go on for months or even years.

Schools look for things like dirty clothes, poor diet, lack of parental support (letters not signed etc.) Stuff like truancy and poor behaviour could also cause the school to call in the parent, then to learn the parent's cracking up.

Health services are the most obvious choice. One of the parent's contacts (GP etc.) sees they're falling apart, and decides to call in the Social. Also, it could be on of the parent's friends / relatives who talks to their GP about their worries in confidence, and the doctor cites 'child protection' as an excuse to break it.

Police often find out, usually in situations where they're investigating other crimes. But unless one of the kids has taken to theiving or whatnot, it's unlikely in your desired situation.

2/ Investigation.

From what I've seen, they start out with the initial meeting with the parent at the school / surgery / office. This will be a strict issue-based meet ('Johnny isn't turning up for school etc.'). They won't automatically think the parent is 'unfit', but if they don't 'follow the script' they might start to blame the parent.

If suspicions are roused, they'll contact the Social. I suspect they start by hitting the records - has the family crossed their path before? I have seen from personal experience where Social have taken a kid away on not much more evidence than the parent had been in care a decade before and a couple of little things taken out of context.

They'll also hit the families' GP and kid's schools for infomation. They may call in one of the kids 'to chat' with a Social Worker while there - but they do not say they are from the Social.

If this turns up enough 'dirt', here comes the Home Visit (capitals intentional). They're sneaky. Will bend over backwards to get this. Make meeting at the parent's home the best thing in the whole world. For they want the Home Visit.

Not only does it put the parent at ease (as it's their territory), but gives them a great chance to spy. If given half a chance, they'll go in the kitchen cupboards (have you got food?) ask to use the loo (hopefully upstairs, so they can look at the bedrooms) etc. Again, unless pressed, they won't admit to being from the Social - will usually come with a 'trusted professional' (GP, teacher etc.) and simply be introduced as 'a collegue'.

3/ Showing their colours.

If they've found enough dirt, Social goes in for the attack. Their two tactics are fraud and force.

Fraud - they see the parent a few more times. Build up a rapport. Suggest they 'need help with a few things'. Suss out any relatives that live locally and try to get them on Social's side. If they haven't done so already, they'll interview the kids and other 'significant adults' alone. Only once they've got their foot in the door will they admit to being Social.

Force - Attack of letters and phone calls to parent. Random home visits by Social Workers who are almost as insistant as Bailiffs in coming inside. Missed meetings? Oh dear, Social don't like getting ignored. If they think the kids are 'in danger', they might progress with applying for stuff like Care Orders.

If you want better details for your WIP, feel free to PM me. There's stuff that while I don't want it plastered over an open forum, don't mind giving privately. You're actually doing research into it, which is better than 80% of people who write on the subject!

02-23-2015, 08:38 PM
My response is based on what I know in the USA (or many states)

How would they generally find out about the situation?

Someone would have called in an abuse report typically to a hotline. Many professions have requirements that make people mandatory reporters if they know or suspect abuse is happening.

What would the process be to investigate? Home visits?
Either a child welfare worker or an investigator would go to the home to assess the situation. Primary goal at this point is assessing safety and risk. If there is present danger, child will need to be removed. If there are some safety risks that can be controlled with a safety plan and services, the child may be able to stay at home. Investigator is charged with determining if an abuse call is substantiated. Usually there is a staffing where all facts are discussed to come to this determination.

What about if the parent was good, but something happened and the grieving process then made them temporarily "unsuitable" to be a parent? Would it be different because of the situation?
It still ultimately comes down to the safety of the child. A child may avoid coming into foster care if their are supports in place or other relatives will to step in and help. It's a real case by case situation.

02-27-2015, 07:13 PM
I know a county mental health counselor dealing with children very closely and I am usually her moral support, so I hear a lot of blow by blow of cases with names and details withheld for confidentiality. Here is how it often goes.

If a kid is having trouble at school or a problem is reported by a neighbor, a teacher, a health person or an extended family member (that's very common), social services will look into it. Most families with neglect and abuse problems are already in the system somewhere for something. What you really have to decide is if you're dealing with a typical abuse or neglect case (a family that has had substance abuse problems, neglect, desperate financial situation or other issues in the past) or if you're dealing with an atypical case (a case of neglect or abuse in a setting where it is a more hidden or isolated issue). It isn't that atypical doesn't happen. It does, especially with abuse. But a lot more abuse goes on unnoticed longer in wealthier homes where things look outwardly better.

While I know there are cases of people being reported to Social Services for a loud argument or for leaving a child in a car in front of the house to run back in for the keys, these don't typically end in children being taken out of the home. You could have that kind of thing be the initial reporting incident though. Then if Social Services finds more trouble they will be more likely to intervene.

Time period is also important. Right now and for the past ten years, there is a huge push in the US, away from intervention. Part of it is backlash against a previous trend where children were sometimes taken away from families for less than serious reasons and the children suffered a lot more through the intervention than they ever would have in the home. Part of it is funding cuts, probably the larger part. The counselor who I know is furious every other week about a case where children who she believes are clearly in danger are taken off the case load simply because there isn't much funding and there is pressure to cut cases.

Keep in mind that it isn't common at all these days for a dramatic situation to happen really fast. It takes weeks or months often for Social Services to decide what to do. There will be a lot of back and forth. But then someone in the bureaucracy can decide to act fast. There are those dramatic cases of children being torn out of their parents' arms and hauled away. It happens, but usually after lengthy issues and negotiations. Not all fair.

There is discrimination based on all kinds of things but the single heaviest discrimination is against parents who can't keep their emotional cool. I can't count the number of cases I have heard about in which Social Services took away a child from an essentially good parent, who had made some mistakes but was either in treatment or working extremely hard to put things back together, but the parent was emotionally volatile toward the Social Service people. These weren't cases where the parent was suspected of physically abusing the kids out of anger. These were mostly cases where the parent had taken drugs and there was usually sporadic neglect. I have heard of more than one case where a completely absent parent who had not seen the children in ten years showed up and the children were assigned to that parent or that parent was given visits with children in foster care, while the motivated parent who actually had a relationship with the children was not given any contact because the parent was emotional about it. So, if you have your character be emotional (even just a lot of crying and carrying on), you can get away with a lot more harshness on the part of Social Services these days.

The scenario you talk about in which there is some temporary reason why the parent is grief stricken and neglectful is not one in which Social Services would be as harsh. If there is no other reason to think there is a problem in the home, they will be much more likely to help. If there is any overt temporary reason for the problem, they'll be likely to refer the parent to services (such as the mental health counselor I'm talking about) and if the parent is essentially motivated and together for most of their life, they will usually be able to get things back together relatively soon. Even if Social Services decided the parent couldn't take care of a child temporarily, they would still search for family members to help take care of the child. As a last resort, they might put the child in temporary foster care, get mental health counseling for the parent and allow the parent to visit the child a fair amount. Now, if you wanted to highlight an unfair situation, you could say that that is what was supposed to happen but due to budget cuts, the parent was not given mental health services or the foster family was very far away and the parent couldn't get there. The additional issue of the child being removed could further push the parent's mental state. And so forth. Could lead to drugs. I've in fact heard of such a case.

02-27-2015, 08:12 PM
You have to be more specific - in the US, it depends on the state, the county, even the municipality as to the procedures for reporting and investigating such matters. If you have a place in mind, I would call the government agency (typically listed in the phone book) and ask. Just make sure you tell them you're an author doing research.