Protection of the vulnerable groups in society is the first objective of a welfare state. Child protections, protection from family violence, protection from domestic abuse is just some of the areas that the government needs to constantly monitor (Healey et al., 2018).
The aim of this assignment is to shed light on the concept of risk, risk factors, risk management, and risk assessment in the context of child protection. The researcher will attempt to illustrate the advantages and disadvantages of the risk management strategies in the context of child protection. The researcher will also frame certain recommendations to help the agencies and government to ensure long term safety and wellbeing of the children.
Risk- risk is defined as any potential threat or harm that may affect the state of being or an outcome of a particular process. Risk is a subjective term and is not always fixed because there are many factors that need to be considered before ascertaining a condition as a risk. Risk is always subject to certain conditions and if those conditions exist, the risk can be said to exist. A risk is not always a surety but is only a likelihood of an adverse event. A Risk is calculated based on certain risk factors. There are two main elements of a risk- likelihood of the harm and the severity of the harm.
Risk Factors- risk factors are referred to the elements that contribute to the likelihood of a harm. These factors are commonly assessed red flags that usually end up in stimulating the risk in the society. It is the determinant variable that is associated with happening or non-happening of an event. For example, in child protection matters, risk factors include- consumption of drugs and alcohol by parent, abuse by step parent, neglect by parents, poverty, uneducated parents, domestic violence in the house, etc (Jenkins et al., 2018). The experts check the total number of risk factors that are present in a given case and then assess, the likelihood of a risk. For example, if many risk factors occur, it is highly likely that it will harm the child. However, if only one or two factors are present, they may be ignored and monitored from distance as to not to raise a false alarm. If a factor is the same as it in the subgroup, it does not have any predictive value for the wider population. On the other hand, if there is a factor in all abusive families, but not in the non-abusive population, it is a powerful predictive factor.
Risk Assessment- Risk assessment refers to the practice of determining the presence of risk in certain society settings. Risk assessment is an elaborate procedure that comprises of several types of approaches and methods that experts use to determine whether a risk exists or not (Tilbury et al., 2017). Risk assessment helps the experts to determine the likelihood and the degree of harm that a particular risk may cause. There are three ways of conducting a risk assessment-
- Actuarial risk assessment
- Professional judgment
- Combined approach
In actuarial risk assessment, the experts use empirical knowledge and statistical tools to collect and analyze data to see the patterns that suggest the likelihood and severity of a harm.
In professional judgment approach, the experts consider each case and evaluate it based on the acquired knowledge and experience gathered over the years of practice and work (Shlonsky and Mildon, 2017).
In combined approach, the experts use professional judgment as well as empirical knowledge to determine the likelihood and severity of a harm.
Risk Management- risk management refers to the practice of minimizing the likelihood and reducing the severity of a risk. In risk management, actions are taken and required resources are collected and assigned to either mitigate or reduce the likelihood of a risk. Every condition needs a different assessment and thus a different management. The objective of different conditions is different. For example, in child protection cases, safety of the child is the primary objective and all the efforts are made to manage the risks that ensure the long-term well-being and safety of the child. In the cases of child protection, removing the child from their home is considered as the resort of last order (Wise, 2017). Risk management in child protection happens in various ways such as regular home visits of the child, specialized treatment and therapy sessions, seeking support from extended family and community members, etc.
Risk management is considered as one of the best practices to foresee, eliminate and reduce the likelihood of the risk. In risk management practices, the experts develop plans that nub the risk at the grass root level and thus, the severity of the risk is significantly reduced.
Advantages of Risk Assessment and Risk Management Strategies
Risk assessments are a key part of and are absolutely essential to child care health and safety processes. Children are most often vulnerable to slips and trips, abuse and neglect from their parents and guardians; risk assessments can help an institution to reduce the potential dangers for their clients or assigned subjects. The focus of risk assessments is on the probability and effects of abuse or neglect in respect of the protection of adults. Therefore, the purpose of risk evaluation is to determine the probability or impact of any real or potential danger.
The advantages of risk assessment and risk management strategies while working with young people include-
Recognition and control of risk factors at an early stage-
Risk assessment and management presents the children and their parents with an opportunity to identify the risk at an early stage. They can raise alarms when common red flags are seen (Briggs and Hawkins, 2020). Therefore, they can easily develop plans to prevent it from the very beginning and thus, reduce its effects later on.
Helps in creating awareness and education-
Young people are naïve and thus, are more susceptible to dangers and harm. Risk assessment provides these children with an opportunity to learn about the harmful traits of the people around them and to identify toxic things that can potentially harm them. This helps them in raising alarms and seeking for help in the times of need (Segal et al., 2019).
Reduces incidents of risks-
Once the experts have conducted a risk assessment, they develop the likelihood and severity of a harm that may happen to a child or the young person. Once that has been identified they come up with risk management plan to reduce and mitigate the happening of the event. Thus, most of the times the risks are completely eliminated and the children lead a happy and peaceful life.
Risk assessment and management eliminates the element of surprise in the times of danger and harmful scenarios. Because of effective risk assessment and management, the likelihood of an event is already established and there is already an air of knowledge about the risk. Therefore, the children are better prepared to handle the risk.
Disadvantages of Risk Assessment and Risk Management Strategies
Having discussed the ample advantages that risk assessment and risk management can provide us, there are numerous disadvantages of the risk assessment and management strategies. Some of the disadvantages are-
Risk is only a likelihood of happening or non-happening of an event. There is much uncertainty about it formal assessments and management creates a situation of panic or urgency that leads to much paranoia and chaos with respect to things that may not even happen for sure. However, the feeling that it may happen, hinders the quality of life and well-being. Its like living under a threat when there is none (Higgins et al., 2019).
Assessment and management of risks involve the use of many resources such as empirical tools, time of the experts, data collection procedures, etc. It is quite likely that most or some of the events may not happen at all and during these times, the resources seem to be wasted that could have otherwise been used for some other profitable purpose.
Reduced Quality of Life
Risk is only a likelihood of a harm and to manage this likelihood parents may prevent their children from doing many activities. For example- much cases report violence and abuse from step father, this does not mean that if your child has a step father, he will definitely suffer abuse. This will hamper the child’s relationship with the step-father and the mother’s relationship with her new husband as well (Mmusi, 2020).
Having researched about the concepts of risk, risk factors, its assessment and management followed by the advantages and disadvantages, the researcher has developed recommendations that will enable the experts and other responsible agencies to use risk effectively and ethically.
Resilience is often defined as a better-than-expected behavioral outcome. Meaning when the young children are taught about resilience or are educated to develop resilience, they can control the outcomes of the risks better. Resilience can be instilled by developing and working on protective factors. Protective factors are elements that balance out the risk factors and instill a protective quality in the children (McFadden et al., 2019). There are many types of protective factors and the individuals can be helped to use them such as individual protective factors, family protective factors, environmental protective factors, etc.
Developing Interagency Collaboration-
Any support agency that seeks to aid the young people in protection should be mindful to maintain the regular environmental factors around them as children are susceptible to slightest changes too. In the interagency collaboration, the support agency can develop plans for child protection by involving family, extended family, community, etc. It is just a way of working together to achieve a common objective of child protection (Myers et al., 2017). The family members and neighbors can come in handy for data collection and reporting incidents, the agency can take the necessary action and thus, a symbiotic relationship can be built to achieve a common objective.
Identification of Barriers
Many young children who suffer from abuse or children who are in need of protection, fail to speak for their rights. It is the duty of the adults to identify the barriers and look beyond the general behavior for signs of trauma and abuse. For example, when children are in trauma or suffer an abuse, they tend to become secluded, show more anger, refuse to spend time with particular people or class of people. Adults need to regularly monitor and check the behavior of the children for any irregularities.
It is the tendency of the young children to not disclose things in one go. It is a general behavior that children speak in bits and pieces only after having a sense of trust with the listener. Therefore, as care providers and social workers, when a child is opening up, one must not disregard his or her feelings as being silly or immaterial (Mathews, 2018). The worker or the care giver need to build a trust with them and further interrogate and push the child to open up and report the matter.
Child protection is a serious act that needs lot of care and caution. The collaborative approach in risk identification and mitigation is one of the best means to avoid any mis happenings with the child. An early identification and risk management surely puts one in a better place but it has its own set of disadvantages too. Children are fragile and risks involved in their care and protection must be evaluated in all seriousness and sincerity.
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- Healey, L., Connolly, M., & Humphreys, C. (2018). A collaborative practice framework for child protection and specialist domestic and family violence services: Bridging the research and practice divide. Australian social work, 71(2), 228-237.
- Higgins, D., Lonne, B., Herrenkohl, T. I., & Scott, D. (2019). The successes and limitations of contemporary approaches to child protection. In Re-visioning public health approaches for protecting children (pp. 3-17). Springer, Cham.
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- Mathews, B. P. (2018, March). Legal duties of doctors and nurses to report child abuse and neglect across Australia: Law, ethics, and results from a 10 year national study. In 27th Annual Australian Medico-Legal Conference.
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- Mmusi, F. I. (2020). The development of an adolescent risk-behaviour management programme for foster parents (Doctoral dissertation, North-West University (South-Africa)).
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- Shlonsky, A., & Mildon, R. (2017). Assessment and decision making to improve outcomes in child protection. Beyond the risk paradigm in child protection. London: Palgrave, 111-129.
- Tilbury, C., Hughes, M., Bigby, C., & Osmond, J. (2017). Social work research in the child protection field in Australia. British journal of social work, 47(1), 256-274.
- Wise, S. (2017). Developments to strengthen systems for child protection across Australia. Australian Institute of Family Studies.