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A study calls for the justice system professionals to reduce delays in courts when neglected children are involved

Date: (20 March 2013)    |    

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Family justice system professionals judges, family lawyers and other agencies involved should aim to reduce delays in court proceedings when dealing with abused and neglected children says a study by Loughborough academics.
Professor Harriet Ward CBE and Rebecca Brown say it can take nearly two years for children’s services and the courts to decide whether a child should be taken into care or placed for adoption which is too long considering the first two years of life were so crucial to a child’s development said Dr Ward.
Dr Ward, Professor of Child and Family Research and Director of the Centre for Child and Family Research at Loughborough, said on an average a definitive decision was made in 14 months.
A six month child who has been found being abused would be 20 months old before anyone decided that the child was to be permanently separated or was going to stay with their birth parents.
And another six months are added for implementation of the decision meaning the child would have attained the age of two before reaching their permanent home and could be further older if its an adopted home that is another five months.
Funded by the Department for Education, the study is going to help train family justice professionals – judges, magistrates, adoption lawyers, children solicitors and local authority solicitors – to make informed decisions about a child’s future.
Dr Ward said the first two years of a child’s life were the most important in its development and that leaving it with abusive parents for all that time can be damaging in the long term.
She gave several examples from a separate Loughborough University study of 57 abused and neglected children who have been followed from birth to the age of five, including a three-year-old who was able to explain how to prepare heroin, and another who would scavenge in dustbins for food.
The time frame was very vital as abuse and neglect had a major negative impact on childhood development from the time a child was conceived. And the time frame for the courts was just not suitable to the requirement she added.
Dr Ward said that the study wanted to get the message across that timeframe did not fit in and the courts had to take decisions to act within a child’s timeframe which was not the case till now.Decision to separate children from their parents should be taken early and making no decision was fraught with adverse consequences as does making wrong decision she added.
Dr Ward also recorded a video for Research In Practice which will be screened at seminars with social workers and family justice professionals.

 

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