In February 2014 Cafcass was inspected by Ofsted. This was the first time that Cafcass had been inspected as a single national organisation.
Ofsted found that the quality and effectiveness of Cafcass work with children and families in both private law (arrangements for children) and public law (care and adoption) was good.
We use tools like stickers to help younger children, or those who may not be able to articulate well, how they are feeling. We also use workbooks like ‘How it Looks to Me’ to help understand what a child is experiencing.
Ofsted found that:
“Most direct work with children and families is well planned and of high quality and the good range of tools available to practitioners are used effectively. These include a range of age appropriate tools for children and young people to express their wishes and feelings and a child impact tool which enables practitioners to explore with children some of the more distressing things that have happened to them (this was also the case in public law practice). Direct work is age appropriate and sensitive to the specific needs of children, for example those with communication or learning needs.”
“There is a good focus on understanding children’s wishes and feelings. For example, an inspector observed direct work with a 10 year-old boy about a contact dispute. The Family Court Advisor had clearly planned the session in advance, including the use of eco-mapping and use of scales (testing feelings on a scale of 1 to 10) to best understand the child's wishes and feelings. After an introduction with his mother present and some appropriate rapport-building, the practitioner worked skilfully with the child alone, to gain insight into his wishes and feelings. She was responsive and sensitive to the child allowing him to control much of the session, using open questions and reflecting back to check his understanding.”
We will recognise the individual needs of each child:
“Inspectors saw examples of very effective direct work with young people which had a good focus on equality and diversity particularly in Birmingham and the Black Country. For example, an inspector observed a Children’s Guardian had established a good relationship with a child. She was very alert to the child’s distress and anxiety and appropriately conducted the interview at the child’s pace allowing them to take control of the discussion. The guardian demonstrated very good communication skills and the ability to develop a rapport and trust with the child. Issues around contact and cultural issues arising from the child’s ethnicity were sensitively but appropriately explored. The guardian was able to ascertain the child’s wishes whilst supporting the child to come to an understanding of the safeguarding role of professionals. Speaking to the young person afterwards the inspector heard how the young person felt she understood the role of the guardian and said that she felt able to trust her. The young person said she felt she was listened to and that the guardian had tried hard to understand her culture and background and had a good understanding of what she had experienced."
While we will work to understand a child’s wishes and feelings, sometimes it is important to let the court know that what the child is saying may not be in their best interests. Wherever we can we will explain our reasons to the court and to the child.