Not all agreements make this clear and, unfortunately, social services are not always brilliant at providing support. But a well-developed and balanced agreement should clearly indicate what the social worker will do with and for the family. This could be the case: if the parents follow the agreement, the document can be used as evidence in court that the parents come into contact with professionals and/or make the necessary changes to ensure adequate care for the children. The agreement and any evidence whether or not a parent has maintained it will potentially be important information in any family court proceeding concerning children. It can be abandoned by a social worker who says that children should be abducted because parents cannot rely on it, because they have already broken their promises, or to show parents that they have said what they are worried about and what needs to change, the support they have been offering and the clear instructions they have given. It can be abandoned by a parent who says they have done everything they asked for and that they should keep (or recover) their children. It can be provided by a parent who says that the local authority has not offered enough support or that they do not have enough clear what they are doing. It is also a good assessment of what, at one point, was really worrying social services – and therefore what was not enough concern to include them. These documents, in addition to proving what has actually happened since then, can be very useful for the courts trying to determine whether the parents have been shot fairly. Over time, they have become part of the accepted instrument of social work. We see how they are used over and over again. However, little or no formal research supporting their use.
As a sector, do we need to talk about how and when written agreements should be used? Personally, that is what I think. When social services are linked to children, their parents or large families are often asked to sign a document often referred to as a ”written agreement,” ”trust contract,” ”employment contract” or ”partnership contract.” Parents are not always able to obtain legal advice when asked to sign these documents, and there may be misunderstandings about the status of such agreements and the consequences of refusing to sign or do something that says the parents cannot do. The first thing to understand is that whatever it is called, a waiting contract is not a contract.