Parenting, child protection and the case of Daniel Pelka

24 September 2013

The report into the tragic death of Daniel Pelka is quick to identify the professionals involved as "too optimistic" about what they saw. As yet no blame has been laid on any individual agency, but the sad truth is Daniel’s death rests at the hands of his mother and step-father.

The parent-child relationship is vital in providing the foundation stones for a safe and secure start to each child’s life. The process of developing attachment and positive relationships must be prioritised and early work to deliver parenting programmes targeted at complex families to rectify problems should be as standard.

Additionally, the report identifies that early warning signs need to be well understood by childcare professionals, such as the potential negative impact a mother’s mental health problems can have on their child, or a step-father needing extra help in building a bond to a child that isn’t his own.

The system around each child in the UK needs to be co-ordinated so that agencies can easily talk to one another about individual children and the co-location of services may ease the current divide. That said, the planned transfer of commissioning responsibility for health visitors to local government in 2015 needs careful consideration to ensure open channels of communication and shared responsibility for individual children.

Children’s wellbeing needs to take precedence over organisational priorities and problems. Staff time spent navigating and understanding the system would be better invested in supporting children’s needs, working on a human as well as a professional level so that both intuition and specialised knowledge are used to understand a complex family environment.

Sadly child abuse is part of every culture and society, but we can do more in the UK to build child-centred services, communities, and families and promote better parenting early on in the life of every child.