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Applying complexity theoryWhole systems approaches to criminal justice and social work$
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Aaron Pycroft and Clemens Bartollas

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781447311409

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447311409.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM POLICY PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.policypress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Policy Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PPSO for personal use.date: 30 March 2020

Child Protection Practice and Complexity

Child Protection Practice and Complexity

(p.97) Five Child Protection Practice and Complexity
Applying complexity theory

Peter Hassett

Irene Stevens

Policy Press

In Chapter Five, the area of child protection is considered by using an explicitly positivist approach to the existence of power laws within complex adaptive systems that explains repeated failures to protect children from serious harm and death. The authors argue that historically, reports and inquiries that have examined these failures have taken a linear approach in the analysis of the chronology of service failure, with the result that their recommendations have failed to take account of the dynamic nature of the complex adaptive systems within which these children are embedded. They further argue that an approach based upon complexity suggests that there will be unintended and unpredictable consequences as the tightening of procedures leads to defensive practice and a ‘tick-box’ approach to assessment of risk in the future. Building upon the previous chapters, this raises serious questions about how practitioners use their judgements in managing risk, and also what our understanding of complex adaptive systems says about the inevitability of child deaths in the future.

Keywords:   child protection, complex adaptive systems, linear, dynamic, ‘tick-box’ approach, defensive practice, managing risk

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