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Abstract

The importance of family experiences on children’s development and wellbeing has been widely documented. Yet, recent reports generated by inquiries into child abuse and neglect in the Irish context raise disturbing questions with regard to how the severe maltreatment of children can occur within the family context. It is imperative that the messages generated from these inquiries can effectively inform policy and practice in terms of protecting children from harm and providing support to families at-risk. The present paper draws together key issues for parenting and family support for families ‘at risk’ based on the Roscommon and Monageer inquiries with a view to gaining insight into key issues which need to be addressed in terms of protecting children from harm and providing support for parents experiencing adversity. A number of implications arising from these reports are outlined and discussed. Specifically, the need to amplify the focus on support for parenting in the context of poverty and substance abuse is highlighted with a particular emphasis on developing sensitive screening and assessment for parents who may be difficult to engage with due to chronic mental health issues. The importance of accessing the voice of children within the provision of family support is also underlined in these findings. A key recommendation from these reports is that the needs, wishes and feelings of each child must be considered as well as the totality of the family situation. Moreover, the need for staff in child welfare and protection services to have access to ongoing training and professional development to meet the complex and changing needs of the children and families they are working with is also highlighted. Specifically, ongoing training for frontline staff in understanding the effects of drug and alcohol dependency, and, in particular, the effects on parenting and parent-child relationships is underscored in findings from these reports.

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