More training and emotional support are needed for school staff who are relied upon to keep children safe from abuse and neglect. That𠏋 one recommendation from a new report by the University of Portsmouth.
Being interested in the stories of parents and carers is known as professional curiosity is essential in the early intervention of abuse and in keeping children safe. Its significance has been a recurrent theme in inquiries into child abuse and neglect over the past decade.
‘The responsibility of school staff is immense in spotting child abuse needs to be supported well.’
Dr Emma Maynard, Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Portsmouth said: 㜁e found that professional curiosity was a highly emotive concept. School support staff � so often the first to ring alarm bells in abuse cases, felt the support they were offered was inconsistent and in some cases a question of luck�.
Professional curiosity comes into its own when indicators of child abuse are less visible. In these circumstances, it requires a practitioner to remain 𪆒ncertain� about a worrying situation and display interest and curiosity towards a parent𠏋 narrative.
In past cases, it has been suggested that if practitioners had acknowledged feelings of uncertainty around the visible and non-visible signs of abuse and neglect, and displayed curiosity in response to this uncertainty, harm to children could have been prevented.
Professional curiosity is something people in professional roles supporting children and families do without inferring judgment or being 忛osey�.
Curiosity helps to build up a clear understanding of complex situations by showing an interest in what life is like for a family, asking questions, and listening carefully. Professionals need to feel supported to practice curiosity and keep children safe and well.
The research proposes recommendations for future research and practice in response to the findings presented.
� Those in leadership and management roles should carefully consider the emotional support available to practitioners.
� Regardless of the setting, those challenged with the complexity of being professionally curious with parents should be provided with appropriate support that engages with their experience on an emotional level.
� Support for practitioners is a vital component in enabling them to display compassion and curiosity, to deal with the myriad of emotions, tension, and uncertainty provoked by curiosity and wider child protection.
� Failure to embed appropriate support may result in professionals failing to display professional curiosity and, ultimately, experiencing compassion fatigue and emotional burnout.
It is also vital that preventative services dealing with higher and more complex cases need to be more supportive than before to adapt to conflicts with their professional identity.