Navigating Non-Accidental Injuries: The Rise of Resolutions Model Assessments in Care Proceedings
Within care proceedings, when the Court determines a non-accidental injury to a child, we are starting to see an increase in the use of Resolutions Model style assessments. Although the Resolutions Model has been around for quite some time, it is only recently that this style of assessment has started to crop up more within care proceedings.
The Resolutions Model Assessment is appropriate in circumstances where the Court has determined that a parent has inflicted an injury on their child, or they cannot be ruled out of the pool of perpetrators.
- What is the pool of perpetrators?
- When would the Resolutions Model assessment be suitable?
- In what sort of case would the Resolutions Model be appropriate?
- How does the Resolutions Model work in practice?
What is the pool of perpetrators?
In non-accidental injury cases, parents often hear the term ‘pool of perpetrators.’ This is essentially where two or more people are responsible for causing the injury to the child, and the Court is unable to determine the specific individual. For example, if the child was at home with both parents at the time the injury occurred. The pool can be much larger and can include other individuals who had care of the child over the timeframe during which the injury happened. i.e. any one of the individuals in the pool could have inflicted the injury.
When would the Resolutions Model assessment be suitable?
During the proceedings when a non-accidental injury is involved, the Court could make a finding or multiple findings as to who is responsible for the cause of the injury. This determination is made by the Judge after hearing and reading all the evidence in the case and is based on the balance of probabilities. This is ordinarily conducted at a Finding of Fact hearing. In order to make a finding that someone is personally responsible for the injury, the Court must find that it is more likely than not that it was that person who inflicted the injury.
Another option is that the Court could make what is called a pool finding, which means that the Judge concludes that two or more people within the pool of perpetrators caused the injury, but the Court cannot determine the specific individual as they cannot be certain who it was.
The Court could also make no findings against a parent, and usually, this would mean that the child would return to that parent. However, if findings are made against a parent, then it is highly unlikely the Court would sanction a care plan where that child was to return to that parent’s care.
If a pool finding is made, this does become trickier as the Court cannot say with any certainty who the safe parent is; this uncertainty would mean that it is too risky and unsafe for the Court to sanction any care plan where the child is returned to either parent.
This is where the Resolutions Model comes into play, recognising that there are some cases where a child could safely return home, to a parent with findings made against them, either personally or as a pool finding, even when that parent denies all culpability.
In what sort of case would the Resolutions Model be appropriate?
It is only in very specific circumstances that it would be appropriate, but there has been an increase in the number of cases in which the Resolutions Model is being considered. When deciding whether it can be made safe enough for a child to return home to their parent(s), five 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 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 is different and will be considered on its own facts; however, 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 of the family. The social worker worked closely with the mother and her family, and 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 were formulated. The Judgment does not go into detail as to what was involved in the plan, but it does give a very helpful 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 supervised, with the supervisor’s 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 were 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.
It is encouraging as a care solicitor to see the increase in the Resolutions Model being used, as it has the potential for the safe reunification of children with their parent(s). The Resolutions Model is now being widely recognised within care proceedings, giving increased hope for many parents that their children could be returned home, even if findings are made against them.
How Ridley & Hall’s Non-Accidental Injury Solicitors Can Help
We understand that being accused of such an injury can be an extremely distressing experience for parents or carers. Our team of experienced care solicitors specialises in handling cases involving Non-Accidental Injury and will provide empathetic guidance. Feel free to contact us on our freephone at 0800 8 60 62 65.