It should go without saying that the child needs to be at the centre of child protection. It has to be said because children are so often lost sight of and not properly related to, and this can have tragic consequences. Attempts to ensure child protection professionals focus more effectively on the child have periodically been developed in policy and have always been in tension with protecting the rights of parents and the family to privacy. The most recent manifestation of this in England, for instance, is that revised government guidance issued in 2010 places a specific requirement on social workers to see children alone when assessing their needs and promoting their safety (DCSF, 2010). But what does ‘seeing’ children mean, where should they be seen, how can this be achieved and what do we know about how best to work with children and young people to ensure they are safe? This chapter explores these questions through the notion of ‘relating’ to children. This terminology has been chosen because it captures a range of stages of work, from ‘accessing’ children and initial ‘engagement’ with them, to longer term therapeutic and support work. It also includes different activities: observing, talking, listening, walking and playing with children.
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