What will happen at the child protection conference?
The meeting will be organised by a child protection conference chair. This person is separate from the social work team that looked into your child's situation. It is the chairperson's job to:
- make sure everyone's opinion, including yours, is heard;
- ensure that the focus of the meeting remains on your child's welfare; and
- decide whether or not your child needs to have a child protection plan.
The chairperson will meet with you before the conference takes place, and will explain what will happen during the meeting and answer any questions you may have.
Everyone at the conference will be asked for relevant information about your family. You should be given a chance to comment on this information. If there are things you don't agree with, you should raise this at the conference. It is good practice for your views and opinions to be recorded.
It is very important that the impact of domestic violence on all family members is understood by everyone present. Survivors often feel that they are in some way blamed for putting their children at risk, because the burden is on them to keep their child safe. It is important to move away from focussing on blame towards making sure that everyone is safe. This includes making sure the children do not experience, see or hear any future incidents of abuse.
Everybody should be clear that the responsibility for the violence lies with the abuser, and agrees what will help the child to be protected from further harm. The conference should be an opportunity for a constructive conversation about how to protect the victims of the abuse, and this may involve you being asked to take some protective actions regarding your child. If you feel that some professionals at the conference do not fully understand the impact of domestic violence on families then you should raise this with the Chair.
After information has been shared and the risk to your child has been analysed by those at the conference, all the professionals at the meeting will then be asked to give their view about whether or not they think your child has suffered significant harm and is at continuing risk of, or likely to suffer, significant harm in the future. In other words they will be asked whether or not they have ongoing worries about your child and your ability to care for and protect him or her.
It can be very upsetting to hear that your child is thought to be at risk of harm even though you feel you have done your best to protect your child. It is important to remember that a child protection plan does not mean that you directly abused or neglected your child. In domestic violence circumstances, it is usually because the abuser's behaviour has put your child at risk. But social workers may also be worried about whether you can protect your child from witnessing domestic violence in the future and about whether you understand and accept what is safe and what is not safe for your child.