The child protection conference: A study of process and an evaluation of the potential for on-line group support



The processes underpinning child protection decision-making have been less frequently studied than the consequences of decision outcomes. This paper reports the findings of three investigations into the dynamics and processes involved in reaching decisions about the registration of children as at risk. The three studies reflect an approach which is to triangulate onto the core of decision processes by focusing on different aspects of those processes. Study One reports the findings of a linguistic and discursive analysis of transcripts of child protection conferences which has provided a framework for the second and third studies. Study Two reports on the views of child protection chairpersons about the level of satisfaction felt with process and outcomes of child protection conferences. Study Three describes the outcomes of a trial to support the conference process through the use of a group support system. The findings of the research support those of earlier studies. In addition, a number of process-related issues are identified. The paper concludes that a suitably designed form of online group support has the potential to alleviate the effects of the difficulties in communication which have been identified by this and other studies. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.