Social worker and midwife decision making regarding child protection risk and the unborn baby: qualitative study

Helena Mc Elhinney, Marlene Sinclair, Brian Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

A new-born baby is vulnerable to abuse and neglect, and the professional role may involve assessment before the baby is born. The aim of this paper is to explore the perspectives and experiences of midwives and child protection social workers regarding the protection of unborn babies within Northern Ireland. Data were gathered using four focus groups (fourteen midwives and sixteen child protection social workers) within one Health and Social Care Trust. The data were analysed in terms of understanding risk factors and forming a professional judgement. The mental wellbeing of the pregnant woman, drug use, alcohol use, domestic violence, the pregnant woman’s childhood experiences, gestation period and antenatal care attendance were the main risks identified. Observations, engaging with the pregnant woman and using ‘soft intelligence’ were key aspects in forming a professional judgement. The appraisal of the ability of the pregnant woman to recognise danger was an important moderating factor, and perhaps formed part of a professional judgement heuristic to assist in making sense of wide-ranging information about diverse risks.
Original languageEnglish
JournalChild Abuse Review
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 3 May 2020

Keywords

  • Child abuse and neglect
  • decision making
  • risk assessment
  • unborn baby
  • child welfare
  • midwifery
  • social work

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