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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Communicating with Vulnerable Children: A Guide for Practitioners

David P.H. Jones

Price: £18.00

Members' discount available

Published: Jun 2003

Format: paperback

Number of pages: 188

ISBN: 9781901242911

Communicating with Vulnerable Children: A Guide for Practitioners

Communicating with Vulnerable Children provides a wealth of practical suggestions for all professionals who work with children and young people. It explains how best to communicate when the child has suffered adversity, such as experiences of harm and abuse, or witnessing violence or other distressing events. The focus is on helping children provide full and accurate accounts of their experiences without suggestion from an adult.
Each chapter sets out the relevant policy and procedural context and reviews the available evidence, then gives recommendations and practical advice about how best to communicate with the child.
This book is aimed at anyone who works with or spends time with children. This ranges from professionals whose specialist tasks include helping those who have been abused or neglected, such as social workers, child and adolescent mental health professionals or children's guardians within the Family Justice system, through to those who see children every day, such as teachers. It will be also be an invaluable guide for doctors, health visitors and all those advising concerned parents.
  • The author is a leading authority on communicating with maltreated children.
  • Introductory chapter includes clear guidelines for using the book.
  • Summaries of advice and suggestions are presented in boxes as lists that are easy to photocopy for everyday use.
  • Intended as a practical resource book for practitioners.


1. Introduction and orientation
Organisation and suggested use


2. Developmental considerations
General understanding. Memory. Suggestibility. The consistency of children’s recall over time. Language development. Social and emotional development. Conclusions.
3. Erroneous concerns and cases
Terminology. The consequences of erroneous concern. Frequency of types of false positive errors. Mechanisms leading to false positive cases of abuse.
4. The child’s psychological condition
The effects of adverse experiences on children. Some special problems. The effect of the child’s psychological condition on communication.
5. Diversity and difference: implications for practice
Race, culture and language. Disabled children.
6. Successful communication: core skills and basic principles
Self-management. Technique. Implications for the practitioner. Summary.
7. How concerns come to professional attention: the context for practice
Use and misuse of the term ‘disclosure’. Developmental considerations. Social and emotional factors. Children at different stages in the child protection system. Children’s presentations of sexual abuse allegations. Children’s accounts subsequent to discovery of physical harm. Qualitative studies of children’s experiences of telling others. Adult recollections of childhood abuse. Delay in disclosing adverse experiences. Have sexual assault prevention programmes affected the presentation of concerns? Summary.


8. Practice issues: introduction
9. Talking with the child: first responses to children’s concerns
Policy and procedural issues. Research findings concerning first responses. Implications for practitioners.
10. Talking with children about adverse events during initial assessments
The policy and procedural context. Research findings. Implications for practitioners. Summary.
11. In-depth interviews with children
The policy and procedural context. Research findings and practice implications. A schema for undertaking in-depth interviews.
12. Indirect and non-verbal approaches
Observation. Toys and drawings. Research findings. Implications for practitioners.
13. Advice for parents and carers
First concerns. Advice during the process of assessment. When uncertainty persists.
14. Epilogue
A framework for analysis. Training. Future directions for practice development.
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