Developing a social work intervention for vulnerable, pregnant mothers.
Recent estimates show that severely suboptimal parenting of infants is a major public health problem. Infants under one account for up to 13% of child protection registrations in the UK (DCSF 2009). Neglect (55%) and emotional abuse (17%) account for nearly two-thirds of these, but infants also face four times the average risk of child homicide (see Bunting 2011 for an overview), the risk being greatest in the first three months and the perpetrators being the parents in most cases (ibid).
Recent research found that infants identified as being at significant risk of maltreatment, were not given adequate protection within a timeframe that was consistent with their developmental needs (Ward et al 2010; 2012).
Assessment and planning for vulnerable infants has long been a difficult issue for the professionals involved from both social care and legal perspectives. Oxfordshire County Council Family Support team have developed a new care pathway underpinned by recognition of the need for early identification, effective assessment and timely decision making.
The pilot study evaluates the new care pathway which incorporates an intensive intervention beginning by 22 weeks of pregnancy and continuing for approximately 6 months. The intervention is provided by a team of social work and family support workers trained in the delivery of the Parents under Pressure (PUP) programme. This involves an assessment of parent capacity to change using goal attainment scaling, and mindfulness techniques aimed at promoting parental affect regulation and reflective function; post-natally, reflective video feedback is used to promote sensitive parent-infant interaction.