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Child Neglect and the Law: Catapults, Thresholds and Delay

NCJ Number
Child Abuse Review Volume: 16 Issue: 2 Dated: March-April 2007 Pages: 77-92
Jonathan Dickens
Date Published
March 2007
16 pages
This study explored the dilemmas and challenges that face court proceedings in cases of child neglect.
The study results illustrate the conflicts and tensions involved in reconciling social work and legal approaches to the problem of child neglect. Specifically, the challenges facing child neglect court interventions included the challenges of: (1) determining the nature, severity, and causes of the problem; (2) balancing competing legal and policy requirements; and (3) helping families within the restraints imposed by organizational priorities and resource constraints. In order to remove constraints to responding appropriately to child neglect cases, the author suggests a more informed dialog between the legal and social work professions. Both professions should acknowledge their interdependency when severe child neglect cases are taken to court. Research methodology involved interviewing social workers and lawyers from 6 local authorities in England together regarding their joint efforts on 23 child neglect cases, 12 of which could be considered severe child neglect. In all, 54 group interviews were conducted. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed for emerging themes. The author notes that although the sample size was small, the goal was to follow a “grounded theory” approach that strives for a “theoretically productive” sample rather than a statistically representative sample. References