Resolutions Model in Care Proceedings
A Rise in the use of the Resolutions Model in Care Proceedings
Within our practice in care proceedings, we are beginning to see an increase in the use of the “Resolutions Model” in non-accidental injury cases. Although the model has been around for many years, it has very rarely been used in our area.
This is a model whereby a child could be returned to their parent(s), even if the Court has made findings that the parent has inflicted an injury to their child, or they cannot be ruled out of the pool of perpetrators.
What is a pool of perpetrators?
A pool of perpetrators is when there are two or more people who could have been responsible for the injury. For example, a child was in the family home with both of their parents when an injury has happened. Or it could include a bigger pool; for example there has been a party with 10 people present when an injury has happened. If nobody admits to inflicting the injury, all of the people who were present are within the pool of perpetrators i.e. any one of them could have done it.
When would the Resolutions Model be needed?
The Judge can make findings in a case about who was responsible for causing a non-accidental injury once they have heard and read all of the evidence. This is done in a ‘Finding of Fact Hearing’.
To make a finding that someone is personally responsible, the Judge has to find that it is more likely than not that it was them who inflicted the injury. That is because the standard of proof in a family case is on a “balance of probabilities”.
Another possibility is the Judge could make a pool finding, which means they conclude that someone within the pool of perpetrators has inflicted a non-accidental injury, but they cannot be sure who it was.
If no findings are made against a parent, typically the child will be returned to them. On the other hand, if a finding is made against a parent, typically the child will NOT be returned to them.
The situation is trickier if a pool finding is made as the Court will not be able to say with any certainty who the “safe” parent is. In most cases, this uncertainty would mean that it is too unsafe for the child(ren) to return to either parent.
The Resolutions Model recognises that there are some cases where a child could be returned, even if a parent with findings made against them, either personally or as a pool finding, continues to deny any wrongdoing.
In what sort of case would the Resolutions Model be appropriate?
It is only in very specific circumstances that it would be appropriate, but we have seen an increase in the amount of cases in which it is being considered.
When deciding whether it can be made safe enough for a child to return home to their parent(s), 5 factors need to be considered:
- Do the parents acknowledge that professionals have legitimate concerns given the medical evidence and any finding of the Court?
- Are they prepared to work in partnership with professionals in an open and honest manner?
- Are they willing to examine the way they care for their child and be willing to make changes to care routines in order to help ensure their child’s safety?
- Are they willing to accept a high level of professional support and monitoring of their child’s welfare?
- Is there a credible support network composed of safe extended family members or friends, who are willing and able to be involved in helping to ensure the child’s future safety?
How does the Resolutions Model work in practice?
Each case will be different but a Judgment in the recent case of J (A Child)(Resolutions Model) (Rev 1)  EWFC 58 (25 June 2021) gives some insight into what is involved.
In this case, a specialist social worker was commissioned to undertake a risk assessment. She worked closely with the mother and her family. Risk assessments were undertaken of her family by the Local Authority. There were professional meetings and continual involvement with the child’s social worker and the key social worker, all overseen by the Children’s Guardian. Through these steps, a Resolutions Safety Plan and Roadmap was formulated.
The Judgement does not go into detail as to what was involved in the plan, but it does give an overview:
– Supervision started at 24 hours per day, 7 days a week involving 5 family members and a close family friend, who assisted in shifts. Gradually, short periods of unsupervised time were introduced, starting at 5 minutes. Everyone supervising had clear guidance on what to look out for and how to respond to any concerns. Care would then gradually become less and less supervised, with the supervisors’ role changing to planned and unplanned observations.
– Very regular family meetings were held, in cooperation with Local Authority staff
– Mother and her family were expected to be honest with the Local Authority and putting the child’s welfare first had been a considerable focus of the work undertaken with the family
– The plan allowed for flexibility, recognising for example that a family member / friend may no longer be able to assist. In these situations, progress may be slowed down or stopped to allow time to adjust.
– If the mother was to get a new boyfriend, it was a requirement that the Local Authority would have to assess him before he was involved with the child.
We are pleased to see the increase in the Resolutions Model being used. Its potential for successful reunification of children with their parent(s) is being more widely recognised and this gives increased hope to a lot of our clients that their child(ren) can be returned home, regardless of the outcome of any Finding of Fact hearing.