The Psychics Hotline Method of “Protecting” Children

I’ve said, and many others have said many times, that to repeat the same experiment over and over again is “Insanity”. It is one of the great gifts that Albert Einstein gave us. So when Social Workers try to find new methods, this is to be encouraged and applauded. I wish them luck, but I believe it will fail.

History teaches us about Child Protection that social workers are no better than anyone else at determining which children should be removed. A stunning example is the Baby P Case. Baby Peter was visited by “Professionals” 60 times in his short life, 18 of those visits by social workers. What was the principle learning from this case by social workers, is that you should take every child on the least suspicion, because you will be “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”.  The reality is that nobody but parents are damned, usually by social workers, but social workers are damned only when they make mistakes, as they did in Baby P.

The conclusion that I arrived at in the Baby P case is that social workers are no more capable of determining which children should be removed than anyone. I put this down to many factors, all detailed in the book. The bottom line as I see it, is that Sociology is not Evidence Based and has no Scientific Validity. In many countries only specially trained Police can determine if children should be removed, in the case of Police, their work is Evidence Based and their decisions are based on fact. Compare that to what social workers are being asked to do; predict Future Outcomes for Children. I made it clear in the book that I believe that we are asking social workers to do a job they will never be capable of doing. By the very nature of their work, social workers don’t do investigations, they do assessments, and they are not very good at it.

So the latest Flavor-of-the-Month Pop-Psychology is to use computer algorithms to screen calls to social services. A system now being trialed is called Predictive-Analytics Algorithm.  When Social Services receive a call about a child who may need to be “protected”, it is hoped that a computer program will be able to determine which calls should be dismissed and which cases require a visit to the child.

Predictive analytics are something we use every day without knowing it. When you type in part of a search into a search engine it will pop up suggestions, and finish your sentence for you, giving you a selection based on popularity of questions. As a computer geek myself, who has worked not just on PC’s, but on highly complex Automation Systems, I will make my own prediction on why this will fail. Any geek will tell you that a computer program is only as good as the data you put into the program. Any computer technician will also tell you that the computer and program is only as good as its user. “False data in, false data out”. Here’s why it wont work;

  • The algorithm will not be science or evidence based but rely on faulty guidelines that social workers use on a daily basis.
  • The user is not qualified to conduct investigations, or to determine “Risk” based on a phone call or email.
  • Social Work has no history of success in determining which children are in actual need of protection.
  • Based on Baby P, social workers wouldn’t recognise abuse or risk is they visited the house 18 times and sat on the couch and watched it happen.
  • Existing checklists used by social workers are extremely vague, they rely heavily on subjective opinion to such an extent that most signs or symptoms “may or may not” be present, such that any child could be removed, or not removed, based on subjective opinion.

But let me state clearly, there are systems that are “tried and true” that have been used for many years with great success. At a case conference I plopped my phone on the table at the start of the meeting and pushed a few buttons. I was asked by the team leader if I was using a voice recorder? I answered “no, this is a Lie Detector”, do you have any objection to my using it? There was uproar and I had to remove the battery from my phone before the meeting would continue. I actually use a dedicated Digital  Audio Recorder and not my phone, just as courts and many social workers use.

With a DAR, if you have sufficiently good quality and levels, you can run the recording through a Voice Stress Analyzer, while this is not a Lie Detector as such,  in skilled hands it gives a very accurate reading of stress in a persons voice. While stress may or not be lying, it can encourage people to tell the truth.

In another case a parent recorded a social worker and clearly caught her lying. The parent wanted to use the recording in court so the judge could hear the lies. Social services strongly objected as they claimed tapes could be altered afterwards. Rather than the judge listening, he put the onus on the mother to have the tape analyzed by an expert technician and have her pay for it, making it impossible for her to use the tape. I offered my services for free as a qualified Electronics Technician and a Musician but now the judge put another condition on analyzing the tape, I had to analyze it without actually listening to its content. I said this was entirely possible, but there was no way that they were ever going to allow the tape to be played for the judge. Unbelievable but true. If I had been allowed, I would have over-stepped my mandate by also providing the judge with a Voice Stress Analysis, and also a Voice Recognition program which would have matched the speaker on tape with the speaker under oath on the witness stand.

So yes folks, there is technology that can help you prove your innocence or someones guilt, but I doubt very much that social workers or family court judges would embrace the use of tried and true technology. No amount of money spent on social workers will ever produce a method where social workers could detect by scientific means which children need protection, ever.

Might I suggest that social services re-route all child abuse and neglect calls to Psychics Hotline?




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