I was particularly pleased to be asked to contribute a foreword to this book because of my long-standing interest in the topic of neglected children and their families. For nearly a decade, there has been increasing recognition in the UK that we have often been ineffective in addressing the needs of children neglected within their own families. We have become more aware of the grave and long-lasting impact of various kinds of neglect upon children's development. The more obvious evidence of physical neglect has long been recognized. However, less clear-cut signs, such as when children do not receive adequate stimulation, protective discipline or reliable health care, were not until recently fully incorporated into assessments of risk in the child protection context. This book is timely. It incorporates a good deal of research and practitioner experience which has become available since my own work on neglect was published in 1998.
Since 1997, there have been, and are likely to be, very important developments in policy and practice which affect, directly or indirectly, the issue of neglect. Some of these have been initiated by government in England. It is not yet clear how, and in what ways, these policies will influence comparable services in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but it is highly likely that they will have some impact.
In relation to neglect, probably the single most important change in the last five years has been the acceptance that children who are neglected must be seen as being on a continuum of severity and that service responses must be developed accordingly. This marks a shift towards greater involvement in preventative strategies to support families at early stages. Thus, the 'Sure Start' projects in England began modestly but have been widely extended. They have been designed to address problems of child rearing in the pre-school years, for example, by identifying and helping families who might be described as 'incipiently neglectful', for whatever reason. These projects look very promising.
However, the separation of the projects from mainstream social services, whatever its merits, does not encourage 'joined up' thinking between the