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Child abuse/child protection and welfare: Client needs

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 3465 words Published: 11th Apr 2017

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Child abuse/child protection and welfare: The client needs and the role of the social care practitioner in responding to those needs.

Many countries in the developed world, including Ireland, have seen a significant shift in attitudes to what constitutes as child abuse. Society has become more knowledgeable about different types of child abuse and about the impact the abuse can have on the child throughout their lives. The child’s needs and the role of the social care practitioner will be the main focus of the essay. The essay will discuss the needs of a child who has suffered abuse and propose an intervention to address the importance of care for the child and education for the carer. The role of the Social care practitioner in relation to child abuse will also be a central part of this discussion. Types of child abuse include emotional abuse, neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse. However, this essay will focus mainly on emotional and physical abuse. Suggestions on interventions will be put forth as the different types of child abuse are being discussed. Relevant policies and guidelines will be discussed in regards to how these policies have helped children by giving them rights whilst also giving them hope for a better future.

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Child abuse can be defined as ‘any act of commission or omission which deprives children of equal rights and liberties and/ or interferes with their optimal development’ Gil 1975 (cited in Daniel and Ivatts 1998, p.196). The above definition accords with the spirit of Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child which states that it is the duty of the state to safeguard children from all types of abuse and neglect, to give ‘support to those who have been abused and to investigate instances of abuse’(Children’s Rights Alliance 2013). However, it can be difficult to give a precise or exact definition of child abuse because there are many different types of child abuse. Some types, such as physical abuse can be much more noticeable but may not have the same impact on the child as emotional abuse. Bensley et al (2004) argues that if a parent calls their child stupid and belittles them on a regular basis, the child will start perceiving these comments to be true, and will carry them into their teens and adulthood. Children’s First, the national guidance that promotes the protection of children from abuse and neglect, describe emotional abuse as generally to be established in the ‘relationship between a parent or guardian and a child rather than in a specific event or pattern of events’. It arises when a child’s need for love, support, stability and security are not met (Children’s First 2011 p.8)

Social care practitioners work closely with the child, their family and other professionals to ensure the child’s needs are being met. Social care practitioners should possess a wide range of personal and professional attributes.

A health or social care profession is any profession in which a person exercises skill or judgment relating to the preservation or improvement of the health or wellbeing of others, the diagnosis, treatment or care of those who are injured, sick, disabled or infirm, the resolution, through guidance, counselling or otherwise, of personal, social or psychological problems.

(Health and Social Care Act 2005, p.09)

Professional attributes of a social care practitioner should include a comprehensive awareness of the social care field, to be able to work on their own initiative, and as part of a team, research skills and problem solving. On a personal level, social care practitioners should be open-minded, reliable, trustworthy, and empathetic and compassionate (Lalor and Share, 2013).

Social care practitioners might find it more difficult to recognise and substantiate emotional neglect or abuse as there are no physical injuries or abrasions (Nauert 2014). Evaluation of what is occurring to a child ‘requires that each aspect of a child’s developmental progress is examined, in the context of the child’s age and stage of development’ (Department of Health 2000, p.18). By doing an assessment wheel or triangle with the child, the practitioner will get a good sense of the child, which involves more than just factual data (Buckley et al 2006 p. 40). The assessment process is designed by way of three concurrent activities and five steps. The three concurrent activities are Engaging, Safeguarding and collaborating and the five steps are Responding, Protecting, Devising, Gathering & Reflecting and Sharing/analysing/planning. The child is at the spiral in the middle. See Appendix A for diagram of The Assessment Wheel and Triangle. The aim is to deliver a consistent and organised way of collecting, recording, studying and figuring out the information required to inform ‘effective and appropriate levels of child protection and welfare interventions’ (Buckley et al 2006 p.10). Such as with Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory 1969. The theory states that that we come across diverse environments during our life that can affect our behaviour in various ways. The different environments include the ‘micro system, the mesosystem, the exosystem, the macro system, and the chronosystem’ (Mae Sincero 2012). Yet, child abuse can be hidden from professionals and the outside world for many years before the child in need is discovered.

One of the most famous cases of severe and wilful neglect is the case of Genie Wiley. For the first thirteen years of her life, Genie was kept locked in a small room, naked and quite often tied to a potty. Her family rarely spoke to her and the times that her father did communicate with her it was through barking and growling (Rymer 1994 p.46). She was discovered by a nurse when her mother brought her to the doctors at age thirteen. The nurse believed her to be no more than seven years old. Rymer (1994) stated that extreme neglect and physical abuse had prevented Genie from developing cognitively and physically. See appendix B for the indicators of neglect from the Tusla’s practice handbook. One of the roles of the social care practitioner in cases of child emotional abuse or neglect is to be vigilant and look out for signs as noted in appendix B and to contact the necessary authorities. The main emphasis and concern of any enquiry into the emotional abuse or neglect of a child is the child (Platt and Shemmings 1997). Under the Child Care Act 1991, the HSE has certain statutory obligations for the protection and welfare of children such as taking the appropriate action to promote the welfare of the child (Children’s First 2011 p.19). When carers show kindness, love and affection in meeting the child’s needs, they support the child to develop into a ‘stable, caring, healthy and independent’ adult (LaMeaux 2014). As with neglect and emotional abuse of a child, physical abuse can have a detrimental effect on a child.

Physical abuse can be described as someone intentionally injuring or hurting a child and it can cover an assortment of negative behaviours such as smacking, shaking, repeatedly hitting, burning, cutting and the suffocation of a child (Beaver et al 1999, p. 207). Citizens Information (2014) describe physical abuse as any injury inflicted on a child due to the ‘deliberate failure of the child’s carer to protect the child’. Over the years, many Irish people have heard and read the harrowing stories and reports on the physical abuse perpetrated on countless children at the hands of their “so called” carers in Irish industrial schools. One of the major reports is the Ryan Report. The Ryan Report (2009) is an inquiry into the abuse in which children in the industrial schools in Ireland suffered while under state supervision.

The litany of terrible wrongs inflicted on our children, who were placed by the State in residential institutions run by religious orders, was collated by the Commission and presented for Ireland and the world to read. The healing process involves listening to, understanding and consulting with survivors on how the wrongs of the past can be addressed and how their needs can be catered for into the future.

(Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, 2009 p.9)

The Ryan report, brought light to the severe physical, emotional and sexual abuse of many children. Following the report, the state was pressured to draw up a plan with the articulated aim of replying to all of the 20 separate recommendations, outlined in the Ryan Report, which were grouped into six categories. This plan also brought about the implementation of the Children’s First guidelines (Ryan 2009) (See Appendix C for the full 20 recommendations and six categories). In light of these recommendations, policies and procedures such as garda vetting and reviews into serious incidences have been implemented. However, it is not just industrial schools and services that have caused major concern, for social care practitioners regarding child abuse.

Child abuse can happen in any part of society and, rich, poor or whatever the family circumstance, any child may be subjected to the awfulness of child abuse (Childline 2015). This can have a detrimental effect on the child throughout their lifespan if not dealt with or handled appropriately. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory shows that if one’s physiological needs such as food, shelter and clothing are not being met they cannot reach their safety needs such health and family security or reach a sense of belongingness (Gawel 1997). See Appendix D for Maslow’s hierarchy of needs triangle. According to Maslow (1970 p.38) a person’s most important need is the lowermost unmet need in the pyramid. The assessment triangle analyses the child’s condition and state of affairs and gives the social care practitioner a good and informed plan of action to safeguard the best outcome for the child (Department of Health 2000).

To conclude, as mentioned above, the impact of neglect, emotional abuse and physical abuse can have a harmful and damaging effect on a child. The aim of the essay was to outline the client needs and the role of the social care practitioner in responding to these needs in cases of child abuse. “Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul” (Pelzer 1995 p.98). Children need love, support and affection to grow to be confident and happy adults. In an ideal world, all parents and caregivers would give this love and support to the child in order for the child to grow contently. However, in reality many children face unwarranted hardships on a daily basis, through no fault of their own. It is our role as social care practitioners to help and support these children who need help, so they can be assured a deserved brighter future.


Nauert, R. (2014). For Kids, Mental Abuse Can Be Worse than Sexual, Physical Abuse. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 16, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/10/09/for-kids-mental-abuse-can-be-worse-than-sexual-physical-abuse/75945.html [accessed 16 Feb. 15]

Daniel, P. and Ivatts, J. (1998) Children and Social Policy, London: Palgrave

Children’s First (2011) National Guidance for the protection and welfare of children [online] available: http://www.dcya.gov.ie/documents/Publications/ChildrenFirst.pdf [accessed 16 Feb. 15]

Rymer, R. (1994) Genie: A scientific tragedy, New York: Harper Collins

Health Service Executive 2011) Child protection and welfare Practice handbook, pp19-21, [Online] available: http://www.tusla.ie/uploads/content/CF_WelfarePracticehandbook.pdf [accessed 17 Feb. 15]

LaMeaux, E.C. (2014) ‘5 Needs your child must have met at home’, Gaiam Life: Your Guide to Better Living. [Online] available: http://life.gaiam.com/article/5-needs-your-child-must-have-met-home [accessed 17 Feb. 15]

Beaver, M., Brewster, J., Jones, P., Keene, A., Neaums, S. and Tallack J. (1999) Babies and Young Children: Early years care and education, Cheltenham: Stanley Thornes

Citizens Information (2014) Child Abuse: What is child abuse? [Online] available: http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/birth_family_relationships/services_and_supports_for_children/child_abuse.html [accessed 18 Feb. 15]

Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (2009) Implementation Plan, Dublin: The Stationary Office

Mae Sincero, S. (2012). Ecological Systems Theory.(Mar 14) Retrieved Feb 19, 2015 from Explorable.com: https://explorable.com/ecological-systems-theory

Maslow, A. (1970) Motivation and Personality, (2nd ed), New York: Harper and Row

Children’s Rights Alliance (2013) Uniting Voices for Children: Summary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [Online] available: http://www.childrensrights.ie/sites/default/files/information_sheets/files/SummaryUNCRC.pdf [accessed 19 Feb. 15]

Department of Health (2000) ‘Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families’ , Department for Education and Employment Home Office, London: The Stationary Office

Bensley, L., Ruggles, D., Simmons, K.W., Harris, C., Williams, K., Putvin, T., Allen, M. (2004) ‘General population norms about child abuse and neglect and associations with childhood experiences’,Child Abuse & Neglect, 28(12), 1321–1337.

Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005, No. 27/2005, s.3, Dublin: Stationary Office

Childline (2015) Physical Abuse | Abuse and Safety | Explore [online], available: http://www.childline.org.uk/Explore/AbuseSafety/Pages/Physical.aspx [accessed 24 Mar 2015].

Gawel, J. (1997) Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, [Online] available: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED421486.pdf [accessed 24 Mar. 15]

Van Devall, T. (2013) ‘Printable Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Chart / Maslow’s Pyramid Diagram’, available: http://timvandevall.com/printable-maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-chart/ [accessed 25 Mar 2015].


The Assessment Wheel:

The Assessment Triangle:


Indicators of Neglect Tusla (2011)

Indicators of neglect are likely to be visible in the appearance or behaviour of the child. Individuals/agencies concerned should consider making a referral to the HSE Children and Family Services if they notice that a child:

• Wears soiled clothing or clothing that is significantly too small or large, or is often in need of repair;

• Seems inadequately dressed for the weather;

• Always seems to be hungry, hoards, steals or begs for food, comes to school with little or no food;

• Often appears listless and tired, with little energy;

• Frequently reports caring for younger siblings;

• Demonstrates poor hygiene, smells of urine or faeces, has dirty or decaying teeth;

• Seems emaciated or has a distended stomach (indicative of malnutrition);

• Has unattended medical or dental problems, such as infected sores;

•Displaying apathy, unresponsive to affection;

• States that there is no one at home to provide care;

• Presents with frequent accidents and/or minor injuries

• Growth not within the expected range

• Signs of developmental delays, poor attention/concentration, lack of self-confidence/poor self-esteem, low academic achievement (including erratic or non-school attendance);

• Behavioural signs, e.g. overactive, aggressive, poor coping skills, impulsive behaviour, indiscriminate friendliness, withdrawn, poor social skills development, bed-wetting, soiling or destructive behaviours, substance misuse, running away, sexual promiscuity, self-harm, offending behaviours.


The Commission’s 20 Recommendations

•Commission’s Recommendation 1: A memorial should be erected

•Commission’s Recommendation 2: The lessons of the past should be learned.

•Commission’s Recommendation 3: Counselling and educational services should be available.

•Commission’s Recommendation 4: Family tracing services should be continued.

•Commission’s Recommendation 5: Child care policy should be child-centred.

•Commission’s Recommendation 6: National child care policy should be clearly articulated and reviewed on a regular basis.

•Commission’s Recommendation 7: A method of evaluating the extent to which services meet the aims and objectives of the national child care policy should be devised.

•Commission’s Recommendation 8: The provision of child care services should be reviewed on a regular basis.

•Commission’s Recommendation 9: It is important that rules and regulations be enforced, breaches be reported and sanctions applied.

•Commission’s Recommendation 10: A culture of respecting and implementing rules and regulations and of observing codes of conduct should be developed.

•Commission’s Recommendation 11: Independent inspections are essential.

•Commission’s Recommendation 12: Management at all levels should be accountable for the quality of services and care.

•Commission’s Recommendation 13: Children in care should be able to communicate concerns without fear.

•Commission’s Recommendation 14: Child care services depend on good communication.

•Commission’s Recommendation 15: Children in care need a consistent care figure.

•Commission’s Recommendation 16: Children who have been in State care should have access to support services.

•Commission’s Recommendation 17: Children who have been in child care facilities are in a good position to identify failings and deficiencies in the system, and should be consulted.

•Commission’s Recommendation 18: Children in care should not, save in exceptional circumstances, be cut off from their families.

•Commission’s Recommendation 19: The full personal records of children in care must be maintained

•Commission’s Recommendation 20: Children First: National Guidelines for the

Protection and Welfare of Children should be uniformly and consistently implemented throughout the State in dealing with allegations of abuse.

In examining the Commission’s 20 recommendations, it was decided to group them into six categories.

1.Addressing the effects of past abuse;

2. National child care policy and evaluation of its implementation;

3. Regulation and inspection;

4. Management of children’s services;

5. Voice of the child;

6. Children First, the national guidelines for the protection and welfare of children.

(Ryan Report 2009)


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


(Tim’s Printables 2013)



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