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Learning to reduce risk in child protection

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This article argues for a systems approach to learning how to improve performance, conceptualising child protection services as complex, adaptive systems. This requires an acceptance of the complexity of the work, the essential role of professional judgement and the need for feedback loops in the system where lower-level workers are not afraid to communicate honestly about their experiences, both good and bad, and senior managers treat their feedback as a valuable source of learning. It is argued that current strategies to manage risk in child protection are, paradoxically, making it harder for professionals to learn how to protect children better. Three factors are identified as combining in such a way that they promote a culture in which professional practice is being excessively controlled and proceduralised: the person-centred approach to investigating child deaths, the blame culture and the performance management system. The way they reduce the opportunities for learning are explored.

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