The above question was asked of me by a social worker who I shadowed on a home visit. She had received no reply for two minutes so knocked again and after the third knocking the mother eventually came to the door. The worker was investigating a referral of alleged physical abuse and neglect and she had to be very determined to get into that house to see the children. She succeeded, but only after experiencing moments of worry and existential dread as she stood on the doorstep completely uncertain about whether she could get in at all and what she would face if she did. The question ‘Did I knock hard enough?’ seems so mundane and relates to such an elementary aspect of child protection practice. Yet it is spot on for drawing our attention to the courage, skill and knowledge that are needed to perform child protection effectively — to get the body working by, in this instance, getting the fist to hit the wood of the door with sufficient power — attributes that have gone largely unexamined in the child protection literature. The risks of not doing this elementary work well enough are expressed in the well-known social work in-joke concerning the temptation to execute the ‘quiet knock’ so that the parents do not hear you, and you can leave feeling relieved and able to say that at least you tried to get in.
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- Streets, housing estates, doorsteps: getting to the home
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