I know, I know.
If you’re a parent today who’s received that dreaded call from social services asking for a home visit, you may be worried.
You have the images of social workers coming to take away your child, and you can’t sleep.
You have questions like:
- What questions will a social worker ask my child?
- What do I need to tell my child so that he will answer in the right way?
- What have I ever done to deserve this? I thought it was just a scolding, and I had the right to discipline my child?
There are many reasons why a social worker might need to see your child. One of those reasons might be due to concerns over the child’s safety.
Someone might have called Child Protection after seeing you yelling at your child.
In this article, I will share about the common questions a social worker will ask a child in the context of child protection concerns.
Hopefully, this will allay your fears about what a social worker might ask your child.
1. How are you?
This question is a common opening question to build rapport with the child.
After this initial question, the social worker might build a better relationship by using toys and various tools to encourage a child to feel relaxed around him/her.
This initial question might lead to deeper questions around:
- How do you feel at home (or school, or other places the child frequents)?
- Do you remember a few weeks ago (when the incident occurred)?
2. What do you feel about mummy/daddy?
This question is meant to elicit some of the emotions of the child.
This can be done through a variety of methods, such as the kitbag recommended by Gillian Ruch.
Using cards and finger puppets, this helps a child to externalise the emotions that he or she might be feeling.
Children might often not have the emotional vocabulary to verbalise their emotions. Using such toolkits does make it easier for them to express themselves.
This can be difficult for social workers too. It can be emotionally painful to hear about the experiences of children who have been hurt. Drawing boundaries are vital.
3. Has mummy or daddy ever done something you don’t like?
This is a question that starts moving into the plausible areas of concern such as physical and verbal abuse. This is often difficult to explore, as children have different ways of seeing the actions of a child. Children also often take things personally, thinking that they are the reason for their parents’ outburst.
Lastly, a social worker might take some time to explore this question in greater depth, to ensure the safety of the child. This question might be phrased in different ways such as:
Has mummy or daddy ever scolded you?
Have you ever been beaten by mummy or daddy?
4. Are there times when you feel scared/worried?
The social worker may start asking leading questions to see if the child responds in a way that raises alarm bells.
Accompanying questions may include:
- Tell me more about the times when you’ve felt like this.
- Why do you feel like this?
- When does this happen? How often does it happen?
- What happens usually before this happens? What happens after?
The social worker is not there to take your child away
I hope you are able to find greater peace around this process. Amidst all the negative press around social workers being child-snatchers, the removal of a child is only the last resort.
If there are no causes for concern, this will normally not be the route pursued.
Why do I say this?
In most jurisdictions, there will be need for a court procedure. Whilst there may be emergency removal procedures in the event of extreme risk, keeping the child away from his parents is different from just taking him away.
There will need to be a court approval, by a judge, to determine that there’s been reason to keep this child away from his family.
Worrying that a social worker is going to take away your child will only cause your child more anxiety and stress over what is happening.
Usually, children can easily read the emotions of their parents, and very often reflect them.
If you have done nothing wrong, don’t worry. If you have, take the time to be honest and open with the social worker. Explain what happened and why it happened. It makes it easier for the social worker to understand how to help.
The social worker (really!) wants to help
When I was in the social services, I was most suspicious when I spoke to parents who didn’t appear to be telling the whole truth.
Raising a child is never easy. We are all prone to being frustrated, and lifting a hand against a child. Acknowledging that we might need some help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.
It is only in our weakness that we find strength.
Life (and crap) does happen. You may have lost a job. And your stress boiled over.
Telling that to the social worker, can actually help you get the support you need. Like financial assistance.
Being truthful helps.