Does Responsive Regulation Offer an Alternative? Questioning the Role of Assessment in Child Protection Investigations

British Journal of Social Work, Vol. 41, No. 7, pp. 1383-1403, 2011

33 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2010 Last revised: 25 Apr 2013

See all articles by Nathan Harris

Nathan Harris

School of Regulation & Global Governance (RegNet)

Date Written: October 18, 2010

Abstract

The interface between parents and child protection agencies has long been a cause of concern. This paper examines the challenge that the child protection system faces from the perspective of responsive regulation theory (Braithwaite, 2002). The analysis suggests that management of compliance, though rarely discussed in the literature, has a significant impact on investigations. An emphasis on assessment, especially formal risk-assessment, places an emphasis on a particular type of compliance: "assessment compliance". Research on the experiences of parents suggests that over-emphasis on assessment compliance has a number of disadvantages: it risks alienating families, it focuses attention on a questionable indicator of parents' willingness to make changes, increases the degree of coercion used in interventions, and disempowers families and their communities. It is argued that formalistic use of assessment undermines the effectiveness of investigations because managing compliance within assessment procedures comes to dominate the response of workers. More families could be successfully engaged if the principles of responsive regulation were applied to assessment within investigation processes. A family engagement pyramid, based on responsive regulation theory, is proposed as one way of achieving this.

Keywords: child protection, responsive regulation, restorative justice, assessment compliance, family engagement

Suggested Citation

Harris, Nathan, Does Responsive Regulation Offer an Alternative? Questioning the Role of Assessment in Child Protection Investigations (October 18, 2010). British Journal of Social Work, Vol. 41, No. 7, pp. 1383-1403, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1553585 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1553585

Nathan Harris (Contact Author)

School of Regulation & Global Governance (RegNet) ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200
Australia

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