INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW
My initial efforts to remedy this were somewhat naïve, in that I assumed that the solutions lay in methods and the practical application of good psychometric principles. But I began by observing the practice of others and trying to define what seemed good practice, and studying what others had written. It soon seemed clear to me that there was something ethically odd about intervening in families without assessment-rather like a tradesman who is asked for an estimate and instantly starts to knock holes out of the wall. Many parents insisted: ‘We really just want to know what the problem is’. I began to be interested in process, negotiation, the patient’s view, contract, and empowerment by giving the assessment back to the patient and family in a careful and respectful manner. Only fools rush in where angels fear to tread. On the other hand, I can appreciate that to some it may seem equally foolish to try to assess something as complex
as a person and their family context, so perhaps I have been the one who rushed in…
The experience during this work has taught me a lot. My views about the general disorganization of children’s services have not changed, but this is partly due to the relative infancy (in historical terms) of children’s services: plus the inherent complexity and lack of coordination of the multiplicity of agencies and professions involved in child work. They have grown haphazardly, owing to limited funding and lack of planning. This has strengthened my belief in a need for rigorous and systematic approaches to the work, and for more developmental content in training for all professions. My views of what constitutes ‘science’ have also changed considerably. A useful scientific approach must be a pluralistic scientific analysis (one that uses a variety of theoretical perspectives) and must be explicitly taught as such. The explicit use of several perspectives helps to give trainees a way of thinking about the complexity of development and family life, and helps them understand links between different problems on different levels in terms of either linear or circular causality. Multiple perspectives also help to understand individual differences and different needs. Their use also encourages a flexible approach to therapy, treatment, or problem-solving, tending to generate choices rather than single answers. Families should have choices and this is a key issue for public services.