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About this book

Carol Hayden reviews evidence about children in trouble across a range of circumstances, demonstrating the tensions between welfare and justice, care and control in the treatment of these vulnerable young people and evaluating the implications of the current 'what works' debate within social policy. This book will be invaluable to all students and professionals working with children in social work, teaching or the criminal justice system.

Table of Contents

1. Children in Trouble — Historical, Theoretical and Conceptual Perspectives

Abstract
Every new generation of adults tends to complain about the behaviour of children and young people. Most parents will have at least some problems in bringing up their children; most teachers will experience difficulties in managing the behaviour of some pupils and most of us are likely to witness or experience behaviour from children and young people in the community that is at the least lacking in civility, and may sometimes feel threatening. We hear less about the everyday difficulties children and young people have living with and responding to the expectations and behaviours of their parents and other adults, although we know more about cases of identified neglect and abuse. It is interesting to reverse the narrative for a moment and remember that some parents are ‘in trouble’ too, and may also be instrumental in the trouble presented by their children. At the start of this book, it is a good time for you to consider your own experiences and beliefs about the behaviour of children and young people. It will be useful then to evaluate the nature of your evidence — to what extent has it been influenced by a particular event, perhaps a work role in a particular setting, or cases presented by the media? Notice when your preconceptions are challenged or changed by evidence presented in this book.
Carol Hayden

2. Children in Trouble — Contemporary Perspectives

Abstract
It can be argued that children and young people are centre stage in much of contemporary social policy and that this is both a major departure in terms of state intervention and support for the family, as well as a shift in cultural attitudes towards children and young people (Williams, 2004). Policy relating to better child-care support and provision for working parents, improving the school system, or addressing the quality of life in certain neighbourhoods is part of this mainstream response. While much of this debate is forward-looking and positive, the spectre of unruly children and youth is never far away from any of these discussions, either as part of the rationale for extended schools and community projects, or indeed almost any service for children and families. As a nation, Britain has very divided viewpoints about the nature of the problem and the response to it. So while Marrin (2005), in one of the opening quotations above, might advocate a degree of force and smacking as a way of controlling the behaviour of children and young people, she is at the same time at pains (elsewhere in this article) to explain that she is not an advocate of corporal punishment. Marrin is, however, part of a common popular perspective — those who think ‘something must be done’ and that some children and young people are out of control. A logical consequence of the evidence about early aggressive behaviour might be very early intervention. However, Sereny (2005) expresses shock at the possibility of early behavioural screening of children in nursery school, a proposal that focuses on identifying aggressive and bullying behaviour. Certainly the latter idea is likely to make many people feel uncomfortable because of the age of the children, although it could be equally presented as an attempt at ‘nipping problems in the bud’ (James, 2005). We do know much more now about risk factors for various adverse outcomes: they are remarkably similar whether we are looking at aggressive behaviour, problems in school or in relationships with others, and criminality. However, we also know that risk factors are not causal mechanisms. Indeed, we also know that ‘labelling’ can have adverse consequences. In other words, contemporary perspectives are somewhat conflicted, although they do share continuities with the kinds of historical debates that we noted in Chapter 1. One of the things we highlighted at the end of the last chapter was the growing understanding about the way children in a lot of trouble tend to have needs that cross service-sector boundaries. Often the families of these children also have their own complex and cross-sector needs. This understanding has led to the increasing focus on inter-agency and multi-agency work, as well as to the development of children’s services departments.
Carol Hayden

3. Children in Trouble — What Kind of Trouble?

Abstract
The information presented in this chapter sets out to look at the official records that indicate various levels of ‘trouble’ in a young person’s life, as well as evidence from self-report studies and other types of survey. It is important when looking at any of this evidence to be clear about sources and the generalisability of the data, and it should be noted that much of this evidence is regularly updated, often annually. All government departments and organisations like the Youth Justice Board (YJB) have websites where annual statistics are made available, so it is easy to get up-to-date information and often past statistics as well. There is no shortage of data. For example, YJB statistics give us a very specific picture of the nature of detected offending and the response to these offences. The YJB has also commissioned a number of youth surveys in which the experiences of 11–16-year-olds in mainstream schools and 11–17-yearolds in education projects and facilities for those excluded from school are compared (see, for example, MORI, 2004). The Home Office undertook a survey of offending, anti-social behaviour and drug use of 10–25-year-olds in 2003: the Offending, Crime and Justice Survey (OCJS). This comprises both a longitudinal element which will trace the development, escalation, de-escalation and desistence of these behaviours over time, as well as trends and prevalence. The DfES provides annual statistics on exclusion from school and non-attendance at school, as well as the Youth Cohort Study (YCS). The YCS surveys the education, training and work experience of young people and thus gives us a picture of the overall pattern of young people’s participation in these areas. The DfES also collates figures on Children in Need1 and, within this group, those who are looked after and/or on the Child Protection Register (CPR). Statistics from a variety of other agencies (e.g. children’s charities such as the NSPCC) present figures and perspectives on trends on whatever aspect of the issue we chose to focus.
Carol Hayden

4. Families and Children in Trouble

Abstract
Children first learn what is seen as acceptable behaviour in their home environment. Children behave the way that they do partly due to the way they are brought up or socialised by their parents or carers. Home circumstances are crucial, but interrelate with school and community-based issues. Children who spend time living away from home — those who are ‘looked after’ — are more likely to be ‘in trouble’ in various ways than children who are not looked after. This chapter will review what is known about the extent to which families are both part of the problem and part of the solution for children in trouble. It will include an overview of what is known about children who cannot live with their families for a time and are ‘looked after’ in foster and residential care. The chapter includes a brief look at three pieces of original research: one on a local Sure Start initiative that investigated how an early programme was working ‘on the ground’; another is a quasi-experimental design in which the impact of Family Group Conferences (FGCs) was evaluated; the third piece of research investigated the scale and type of need provided for in out-of-area placements for children living away from the family. These pieces of research explore different approaches to different levels of problem. Sure Start as a community-based initiative is located at the preventative end of the range (in the sense of very early in a child’s life), starting with pregnancy, albeit in communities already identified as impoverished. FGCs are used in a range of circumstances where problems are already occurring. Out-of-area placements, on the other hand, only happen in the most problematic circumstances in which neither the family nor local foster and residential care can meet a child’s needs.
Carol Hayden

5. Children in Trouble at School

Abstract
Schools for most children are the main public facility that they attend. It is the key place where they make friends and acquire much of the knowledge and skills they will need in life. Being excluded from this normal childhood environment is at the extreme end of adult sanctions against behaviour they do not want. The tension between individual needs (adults as well as children) and that of the group is apparent throughout the education system. At school children are expected to adjust to being in a large group, to respond to the expectations of adults other than their parents, and to spend much of their time in a classroom. Many children have some adjustment problems when they start school, or change schools — particularly when they enter secondary school. There are plenty of potential sources for these problems in school — such as difficult relationships with other children or particular teachers, as well as problems with academic learning and other activities. There are also problems that children bring into school — such as worries about parents or conflicts in the local community. Further, being in an organised environment with large groups of people simply does not suit some children. Adults in school, although they have chosen to do this form of work, are very variable in their capacity to understand children and young people and teach in a way that engages them. Exemplary and charismatic teachers do exist, but not in every classroom. Parents and carers are expected to ensure that their children attend school and, not unreasonably, are most concerned about their individual child; they expect schools to understand and cater for this. Parents have been encouraged to believe that they can chose their child’s school and that the school will be able to cater for their individual child’s needs and aptitudes, as well as keep them safe in school and on school trips.
Carol Hayden

6. Children in Trouble in the Community (with M. Johns)

Abstract
Throughout this book we have frequently mentioned the extent to which children in a lot of trouble are often in difficulty in more than one area of their life. For many young people, where their problems can come to a head is the locality in which they live. Although greater emphasis is now given to processes of globalisation and the interconnections between people and places made possible by technology, it is also still true that many young people — particularly those who are in the least advantaged socioeconomic groups — tend to live out their lives in limited geographical areas. These latter areas are often linked by family of origin and school.
Carol Hayden

7. ‘What Works’ with Children in Trouble?

Abstract
The questions of how and why society should respond to children who are ‘in trouble’ are complex. The ‘why’ question means we need to understand and agree upon the responsibilities of different agencies in relation to children and the potential consequences of actions taken. We need to agree upon the balance between individual and family responsibility and that of the state. We also need an understanding of why children and adults behave the way they do. These are both philosophical and political questions about which we do not agree. The ‘how’ question would ideally follow the ‘why’ question and would be predicated upon some agreed understanding of why, as well as the best evidence about how. The apparent tensions and inconsistencies often noted in social policy in relation to children in trouble might be viewed as a result of the different perspectives from which we view the evidence, as well as how different groups see the role of adults and social institutions in relation to the issue. For some, the child is the private responsibility of the family unless there is evidence that a family is not able to exercise this responsibility to an acceptable standard of ‘good-enough parenting’. For others, the state should take a stronger role in relation to social interventions that maximise children’s life chances, rather than waiting for things to ‘go wrong’ or become ‘unacceptable’. From the latter viewpoint a range of universal and targeted services should be available to children and families; children are a community responsibility.
Carol Hayden

8. Reviewing the Evidence and Looking to the Future

Abstract
The previous chapters in this book have illustrated the development of thinking about and response to children in trouble in the UK, as well as the evidence about how many children are ‘in trouble’ and to what extent. We have reviewed the arguments about ‘what works’ and the use of evidence in developing a response to children in trouble, and we have considered the role of families, schools and communities in these respects. It is clear that all the aforementioned environments bear a responsibility to respond to children in trouble in ways that reduce rather than entrench or increase harm, but that the capacity to do so varies a great deal. Families have to be the first focus in any attempt to reduce the number of children in serious trouble. Families are where children first learn how to behave towards others. Families are fundamental in setting the boundaries of acceptable behaviour in different contexts, and many need support at some point in doing so. Many parents and carers are helped by relatives and friends when they are in difficulty, some consult written guidance, and so on. Some parents and carers may lack support and need the help of services — some will find that the response of universal services such as GPs and schools are all they need, whereas others need more specialist and intensive support. It follows that easily accessible parenting support and skills development, throughout childhood and the teenage years, are central to reducing the potential for difficulties becoming entrenched and harmful.
Carol Hayden
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