Derek Blincow, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Helen Thomas, Psychiatric Social Worker and Head of Systemic Psychotherapy and Angie Hart, Professor of Child, Family and Community Health and Psychodynamic Counsellor, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, Brighton. Seasoned family law practitioners will perhaps recognise the cut-and-paste quality of many of the professional reports which fatten their bundles. Under the heading 'welfare checklist' and particularly under the subheading 'physical, emotional and educational needs', the starting point is frequently '[the child] needs stability, security, certainty and continuity of care'. We are aware of how the care system frequently fails to deliver just those ingredients the reports deem so necessary. Public awareness of the damage suffered by children because of the care system has been heightened, through the press and also the recently published White Paper Care Matters: Time for Change, Cm 7137 (TSO, 2007). The latter proposes improvements designed to remedy the system's most glaring deficits.
In this article, the authors argue that optimal therapeutic assessment needs to happen in order to assure the court that everything possible has been explored to serve the child's welfare. There will be a proportion of cases where it is clearly the case that sufficient change will never take place and the damage to the children is already too great. On the other hand, there are a number which are much more hopeful where productive work will already be underway. However, there are many which inhabit a much greyer area. Here, decisions are not at all clear cut and working with these entails a detailed and careful balancing of potential harms. For the full article, which introduces and explains the 'resilient therapy' approach, formulated to promote the mental health of those most disadvantaged children and their families, see September  Fam Law.