The institutional abuse of children
The abuse of children in residential settings has sprung to the fore of public consciousness in the 1990s through a series of inquiries and court cases that have been reported in detail by the media. The press and television coverage has served to bring the often vivid testimonies of those who experienced abuse in places where they might have expected to feel safe to the attention of a large audience, and has exposed both local authorities and voluntary organisations to the charge of failing to protect those most in need of care. The identification of residential care as a locus for the abuse of children has led to a crisis of confidence that is not confined to residential services for children, but has spread to embrace child protection services as a whole. The Government has responded to this crisis with a series of policy initiatives backed up by exhortations to social services departments and local politicians to meet identified targets (Secretary of State for Health 1998; Department of Health 1998a). At the level of practice, concerns about abuse in out-of-home-care settings can have the effect of making the use of care orders seem as risky a strategy as leaving children in abusive home situations.