Social media ‘could help social workers’

family life

Social media posts could provide social workers with useful insights into troubled families, a serious case review has concluded.

Such reviews are conducted by frontline agencies whenever a vulnerable child is killed or comes to serious harm. This one concerned the death of a two year-old boy. He had been killed by his mother’s partner after the couple had gotten back together. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, while she received more than three years in prison for ‘allowing the death of a child’.

The review criticised poor communication among the different agencies involved in interventions with the family. These problems had included failure to follow up when the mother admitted to having experienced domestic violence. As a result, the social workers involved expressed no particular concern when she reconciled with the same man. Nor was she given any opportunity to request a background check on him – two previous partners has complained of intimidating behaviour and he had been cautioned for assaulting a third.

Following the death the media uncovered an online video showing the mother involved in an exorcism, a video which social workers had missed.

The case review report notes that viewing the video before the child was killed could have alerted social workers to problems within the family, adding:

“Checks on the internet and social media can provide publicly available information about lifestyle and relationships to inform assessments.”

In some cases, these and similar searches could, it claims “contradict denials of contact with dangerous ex-partners”.

Social media, it continues, could prove to be a valuable tool:

“When conducting assessments and reassessments of vulnerable families, practitioners may find that including internet and social media checks would enhance and triangulate information given by parents.”

In this case, identifying the video while working with the family “could have provided an opportunity to reflect” on possible risks.

Nevertheless, the report continued:

“[Social workers] told reviewers that they do not do checks routinely on the internet or in social media.”re, the report concludes, authorities should consider encouraging their child protection teams to make greater use of Facebook and other sites, and provide them with suitable guidance as well.”

Photo by Acid Pix via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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