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Child protection and drug abuse


Serious consideration of the effects of drugs and drug abuse on children provides primary justification for the implementation of a multi-agency approach towards helping children who interact with drug addicts or substance abusers at their homes (Kemshall, & Maguire, 2001). According to Cleaver (2009), children have increasingly been identified as the most vulnerable social group in the community. Children have been identified as a vulnerable group as they are more prone to earlier and frequent drug use that could further be characterized by heightened progression to drug abuse (Traussner & Fewell, 2011).

The Need for Multi-Agency Framework

According to Wigfall and Moss (2001), multi-agency work refers to “a range of different services which have some overlapping or shared interests and objectives, brought together to work collaboratively towards some common purposes” (Wigfall & Moss, 2001, p.71). By principle, multi-agency working aims to coordinate seamlessly the work of participants through the sharing of resources, joint funding of projects and formulating holistic outcomes (Wigfall & Moss, 2001). With regards to the protection of children as a vulnerable group, the primary function of a multi-agency framework should include the identification of potential risks, sharing of information among multi-agencies, facilitation of early intervention and the implementation of co-ordinated interventions (Cottrell & Bollom, 2007).


According to Russell (2006), the effects of parental drug abuse has been termed as “Hidden harm” to the children. Parental drug abuse has far-reaching implications on the development of children. Parental drug abuse is likely to lead to the following: exposure to the culture of substance abuse, lack of social skills, negative attitude towards school, depression, sexual exploitation and exposure to crime (Russell, 2006). Consequently, there is a need for a child-focused approach that will wholesomely offer multi-dimensional services to children living with drug abusers. In the case of children, it is paramount that the instituted multi-agency framework should incorporate the following participants: children’s social care, police, health professionals, education experts, probation officers, housing and youth offending service (Home Office, 2014).

The Theory of Collaborative Advantage

The concept of multi-agency working is well founded on the management theory of collaborative advantage. According to studies by Huxham and Vangen (2013), the theory of collaborative advantage focus on the implementation of collaborative work and the dynamic forces that pertain to the multi-disciplinary work that could induce either anxiety or reward. Kemshall& Maguire (2001) noted that as an element of management, the theory of collaborative advantage emphasizes on the importance of democracy, equality, effective working processes, commitment, determination, and accountability. The theory, therefore, underlines that real collaborative advantage should be underpinned with an achievement that could not have been possible by any of the agencies when working alone. Nevertheless, Forsyth (2010) stated that these issues characterize the elements of the Tuckman’s teamwork theory that describes the development process of the team from being as an assortment of professionals to a single entity of participants. Tuckman’s progression stages of the team include the forming, storming, norming, and performing. Riebe et al (2010) noted that while bearing Tuckman’s teamwork stages in mind, it is essential that the multidisciplinary team overcome the challenges associated with the initial forming and storming stages to facilitate effective communication, motivation, conflict resolution, and structuring of ethics and values.

Policy and Legal Context for Multiagency Framework

Legal backing for the implementation of multi-agency framework for safeguarding the interest of children from drug abusing parents is enshrined in the Children's Act of 2004 that calls for the cooperation of agencies in promoting the safety and welfare of children (Barker, 2008). Inter-agency working is recommended for the timely identification and rescue of children who are at need of protection (Forsyth, 2010). The design and implementation of the multi-agency framework is further guided by the Every Child Matters policy that was launched in 2003 in England and Wales after the tragic death of Victoria Climbie (Barker, 2008).The policy identified five welfare and safety outcomes that every child should be assisted to achieve. These outcomes included being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, making positive contribution, and achieving economic well-being (Lindon, 2008).

Composition of the Multi-Agency in Relation Children's Welfare

The lead professional of multi-agency team should be a professional drawn from a recognized children's network preferably state agency (Harvie & Manzi, 2011). He/she will be responsible for the coordination of the activities and responses of the multi-disciplinary team. The team should further incorporate a medical professional charged with the duties diagnosing and treating of children who have potentially been exposed to physical and emotional abuse (Lindon, 2008). Members of the child protection services constitute key integral of the team as they coordinate with law enforces agencies during investigations and represent the minors in juvenile courts (Harvie & Manzi, 2011).

Interaction of Multi-agency, children and Parents

According to Scotland's Children Act of 1995, children living with drug abusing parents should be considered "in need " and "at risk" therefore the need for timely interventions by either multi-agency approach or single agency interventions (Home Office, 2014). Parental abuse of drugs has increasingly been associated with numerous health and social risks that include emotional and physical neglect of children, absence of adequate supervision, material deprivation, physical abuse, school disruption, and early exposure to drug abuse (Lynch, 2009). In light of the risks facing children with drug abusing parents, it is that multi-agency interventions incorporate the input of both parents and children (Lindon, 2008). However, multi-agency framework faces key challenges in providing service delivery to children with drug abusing parents. Multi-agency settings are limited with the funds to cover both children at risks and their addictive parents, difficulty in initiating and maintaining treatment to parents, lack of coordination among various members of the multi-disciplinary team and significant differences on the perspective and philosophies (Buchroth & Parkin, 2010). In Scotland, the multi-agency team comprises of health and education professionals, housing officials, police, and social workers (Scottish Government, 2010). Through the Link-UP initiative, the multidisciplinary team engages both children and parents in addressing potentials risks facing children (Goveas, 2005). The team offer short-term family support where social members stay with families during evenings and night when tensions are likely to erupt at the households (Cheminais, 2009). Additionally, team provides a transition phase for the family by developing services that are specifically tailored to meet the needs of parents and children within a given household (Caselman, 2015).

Benefits of Multi-Agency Working

With regard to the welfare of children, multi-disciplinary working facilitates enhanced outcome for children particularly those from abusive parents (Siraj, Clarke & Needham, 2007). Collaborative working further underpins effective community approach in mitigating challenges facing the community (Berlin, Carlstrom, & Sandberg, 2012). With regards to transactional leadership theory, multi-agency working provides an effective platform for exchange of ideology and inspiration thereby motivating parents and children who could otherwise be identified as followers (Mullins, 2013).Consistent with the theory, the framework aims at maximizing pleasure experienced by children by ensuring their welfare and the 5 elements of the Every Child Matters Policy (Cleaver, 2009).The process further leads to improved coordination of service delivery and further strengthening relationships and referrals across agencies. Inclusion of numerous agencies and parties further leads to increased awareness of the challenges facing children living with drug addictive parents (Harvie & Manzi, 2011).

Barriers to Working Well Together In a Multi-Agency

One of the profound challenges facing multi-agency working on children's welfare constitutes funding concerns (Curnin et al., 2015). The formulation, coordination and management of a multidisciplinary team requires substantial amount of finance. Consequently, the distribution of funds as constitute major concerns as each agency advocates for maximum funding. The establishment of an elaborate route of communication among parties further hinders the progress of the team (Antonakis & House, 2014). Based on the behavioral theory of leadership, communication occupies a fundamental component of effective leadership, as it guides the actions of the leaders (Chung & Crawford, 2016). Lack of an effective protocol on communication network could deter the sharing and transfer of information within the team. Similarly, competing priorities could jeopardize the overall objectives of the team (Levasseur, 2011). There exists the risk of each agency over focusing on its respective agenda without considering the broader picture; such scenarios are likely to lead to conflict and disruption of the operations (Cottrell & Bollom, 2007).

Overcoming Barriers to Multiagency Working

The first step to resolving multiagency barriers should constitute multiagency training. The training should be aimed at providing background information on the roles of participating agencies and further establish professional relationships (Levasseur, 2011). The training should be followed by induction training to educate team members on the basics processes involved within the working environment (Cottrell & Bollom, 2007). The team further requires plan for work with elaborate protocols and best practices regarding communication, chain of command, allocation of funding and resources and the limit or jurisdiction of each agency (Barrett, 2015). The team should further be defined with free flow of information regarding the progress and activities of the multiagency working in order to develop self-worth and sense of belonging (Levasseur, 2011).

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Efforts aimed at improving welfare children living with parents who abuse drugs are increasingly proving ineffective without the incorporation of multiagency working (Harvie &Manzi, 2011). With regards to children's welfare, there exist an intrinsic link between better housing, education, standard healthcare, and legal protection from abusers (Barker, 2008). Vis a vis, the need for implementation of a multiagency working framework. Children living with drug abusing parents have been identified as being at the risks of physical abuse, early exposure to drugs, isolated, parental neglect, and developing emotional trauma. Consequently, Multiagency working has strongly been established and recommended by key legal frameworks such as the Children Act of 2004 and the policy on All Children Matter (Barrett, 2015). The multiagency team mainly comprises of social welfare workers, police, child protection services, education experts, psychologist, and community leaders (Harvie & Manzi, 2011).


  • Antonakis, J., & House, R. J. (2014).Instrumental leadership: Measurement and extension of transformational–transactional leadership theory. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(4), 746-771.
  • Barker, R. (2008). Making sense of Every Child Matters: Multi-professional practice guidance. 1st ed. Bristol: Policy Press.
  • Barrett, N. (2015). A multiagency team working to safeguard vulnerable children. Journal of Health Visiting. 3 (1), 634.
  • Berlin, J. M., Carlström, E.,D., & Sandberg, H. (2012). Models of teamwork: Ideal or not?A critical study of theoretical team models. Team Performance Management, 18(5), 328-340.
  • Buchroth, I. and Parkin, C. (2010). Using Theory in Youth and Community Work Practice. 1st ed. Newcastle: SAGE.
  • Caselman, T. (2015). Helping Children Affected by Parental Substance Abuse: Activities and Photocopiable Worksheets. 1st ed. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
  • Cheminais, R. (2009). Effective multi-agency partnerships: putting Every child matters into practice, London: SAGE
  • Chung, K, & Crawford, L (2016), 'The Role of Social Networks Theory and Methodology for Project Stakeholder Management', Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 226, Proceedings of the 29th IPMA World Congress WC2015 (28-30 September - 1 October, Panama), pp. 372-380, ScienceDirect, EBSCOhost, viewed 23 February 2017.
  • Cleaver, H. (2009). Safeguarding children: a shared responsibility. Chichester, UK, Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Cottrell, D., & Bollom, P. (2007). Translating research into practice: the challenges of establishing a new multi‐agency team for vulnerable children. Journal of Children's Services. 2 (1), 52-63.
  • Curnin, S., Owen, C., Paton, D., Trist, C., & Parsons, D. (2015).Role Clarity, Swift Trust andMulti-Agency Coordination. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 23(1), 29-35.
  • Forsyth, D. R. (2010). Group dynamics. Belmont, Calif, Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
  • Goveas, A. 2005, "Multi-agency approaches to child protection", Gp, pp. 29-30.
  • Harvie, P., &Manzi, T. (2011).Interpreting multi-agency partnerships: Ideology, discourse and domestic violence. Social & Legal Studies, 20(1), 79-95.
  • Home Office, (2014). Multi Agency Working and Information Sharing Project. Final Report. London: Home Office.
  • Kemshall, H., & Maguire, M. (2001). Public Protection, Partnership and Risk PenalityThe Multi-Agency Risk Management of Sexual and Violent Offenders. Punishment & Society, 3(2), 237-264
  • Levasseur, R. E. (2011). People skills: Optimizing team development and performance. Interfaces, 41(2), 204-208.
  • Lindon, J. (2008) Safeguarding children and young people: child protection 0-18 years, 3rd edn. London: Hodder Education
  • Lynch, N. (2009). Conceptualizing a model of effective multi agency working in the context of supporting the educational achievement of looked after children. Newcastle: University of Newcastle.
  • Mullins, L.J. (2013) Management and Organisational Behaviour, 10th edn., Harlow: Pearson Education
  • Riebe, L., Roepen, D., Santarelli, B., &Marchioro, G. (2010).Teamwork: Effectively teaching an employability skill. Education & Training, 52(6), 528-539.
  • Russell, P. (2006). Have We Got Our Priorities, Right? Children living with parental substance use. Aberlour: Aberlour Child Care Trust.
  • Scottish Government (2010). National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2010. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 May 2017].
  • Siraj, I., Clarke, K., & Needham, M. (2007). The team around the child: multi-agency working in the early years. Stoke on Trent, Trentham Books.
  • Traussner, S. L. A., & Fewell, C. H. (2011). Children of substance-abusing parents: dynamics and treatment. New York, Springer.
  • Wigfall, V., & Moss, P. (2001). More than the sum of its parts?: a study of a multi-agency child care network. London, National Children's Bureau Enterprises.

Personal Statement and Reflection

It is through the Gibbs reflective cycle that one can comprehend systematically the phases of an experience in retrospect to gained knowledge or skill. The reflective cycle constitutes the following phases, description, feelings, evaluation, analysis, conclusion and action plan phase (Fook, 2007). The reflective model provides an elaborate system for detailing one’s account of an experience or activity.

The reflective cycle (Gibbs 1988)


It was during my placement as a volunteer in the ongoing multi-agency framework of Behavior and Education Support Teams (BEST) that I first experienced the complexity of collaborative work and the impact of an individual’s personal and professional values. I was acting as the lead coordinator whose primary duty was to coordinate the activities of the education experts, social workers, youth justice, police and community volunteers. It was during the implementation of an action plan to determine the location of a BEST center irreconcilable differences emerged among the stakeholders. While rooting for school site location, most the team members opted for an off-site location. The conflict had far-reaching implications since the action plan could not be implemented without reaching a consensus with the team members. Indeed, the team was facing the forming and storming phase (Cheminais, 2009).


I felt extremely angered by what I considered as a subordination and rebellion from the team members who opposed my directive. From my point of view, I felt that the team failed to appreciate the effort and dedication that I had shown for the project. To some extent, I considered that the opposing team members were politicizing the issue. With the stalling of the project, my rage and displeasure for the multi-agency team heightened. At some point, I thought I was better off without the position and opted to resign.


Prior to attending the course on leadership, management, and multi-agency working, I strongly asserted that I was right and had the bureaucratic powers to bulldoze views on the team, as I was the lead coordinator. However, considering the elements and dynamics of multi-agency working, I have come to realize that I erroneously jeopardized the spirit of the team. It occurred to me that the incidence was consistent with the characteristics of the forming phase of a team (Carnwell, & Buchanan, 2005).


It is now evident that I acted as a single entity while the team was supposed to function in cooperative and multi-disciplinary manner. Largely, I exhibited the elements of traditional leadership style without considering the dynamics of a multi-faceted collaborative work. Multi-agency working stresses the need for collaborative work that can only be achieved through teamwork, effective communication, and development of positive interrelationship with team members (Thompson & Thompson, 2008). Characterized with a complex assortment of professionals, it is only through effective communication and conflict resolution skills that members can inform, persuade, instruct and motivate each other (Siraj, Clarke, & Needham, 2007). Had I developed a team player attitude not only could I had enabled cooperation among members but also advanced conflict resolution mechanism.


In retrospect, I could have handled the scenario differently. I should have spoken to each team member personally and presented my opinion and supporting facts. Additionally, I should have provided a middle ground for negotiation where opposing ideas could have been weighted. Furthermore, as lead coordinator, I had the duty to devise a decision-making mechanism that could have potentially prevented the conflict.

Action Plan

In future, I will ensure to consider first the elements of an effective teamwork. Consequently, having familiarized with elements of multi-agency working and management theories, I plan to assert positively team identity throughout my undertakings of collaborative work by fostering democracy, negotiation, collaborative motivation and effective communication (Lindon, 2008). As a leader, I intend to encourage members to be able to self-evaluate, self-manage, and self-initiate while working both vertically and laterally in collaboration with other team members.


  • Carnwell, R. & Buchanan, J. (eds.) (2005) Effective practice in health and social care: a partnership approach, Maidenhead: Open University Press
  • Cheminais, R. (2009) Effective multi-agency partnerships: putting Every child matters into practice, London: SAGE
  • Fook, J. (2007) Practicing critical reflection: a resource handbook, Maidenhead: Open University Press
  • Gibbs G. (1988) Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit. Oxford Polytechnic: Oxford.
  • Lindon, J. (2008) Safeguarding children and young people: child protection 0-18 years, 3rd edn. London: Hodder Education
  • Thompson, S. & Thompson, N. (2008) The critically reflective practitioner, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

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