Care and Service Planning for Children

The purpose of this assessment is to link the case study used in the seminar groups, Using the chosen scenario and then consider why theories of child development and attachment theory are important to social workers when planning and providing services for children in a multi-agency setting within the context of the United Nations Rights of the Child. SCENARIO. Michael, age 3years, has lived with his current carers for the past 10 months whilst his parents underwent an assessment into their parenting abilities. Michael has recently been made subject of a Care Order (Section 31, Children Act 1989), with a view to him being placed with an adoptive family as soon as possible.

Whenever a social worker intervenes in the life of a family, which includes a child, there is a story behind the intervention. The social worker needs to know that story and its effect on each child, and to “live through the experience with the child as fully as possible, without denying the pain, and accepting the sadness, anger and depression the situation gives rise to” (Winnicott, 1956 p.17).


Due to the traumas Michael may have experienced during his early childhood with his birth parents, it is important for the social worker to be aware of any developmental problems Michael may have. Development largely depends on opportunity and on a stimulating, encouraging and reasonably controlling environment in which fun and laughter are important ingredients. When parents are, indifferent, cold, rejecting or restrictive in giving opportunities for movement, exploring and play, developmental delays are inevitable and this is one of the major signs that all is not well in the child’s environment (Clarke 1976, p.75). Recent research indicates that “growth and development are influenced not only by past events but by on going experiences and future expectations”(Clarke, A. 1976, p.76).

Because of Michael’s birth parents lack of parenting skills, he may have not had adequate food, affection and stimulation in the first few years of his life; this could have delayed Michael’s development. For example he may have been kept in the cot or pram for most of the day. Such a child will show general retardation in locomotion, manipulation and exploring, as well as in speech and general liveliness and will probably be rather small in size (Flanagan 1994, p.199).

This is a condition in which a child develops, in response to attachment difficulties (Psychosocial dwarfism). Michael may improve rapidly in growth and liveliness when given adequate food, stimulation and affection given by his foster carers, but a number of behaviour problems may probably persist for many months. Deprived children usually desperately seek attention and affection, as if to avoid losing these things again (Flanagan, 1994 p.199).

The areas of development I have chosen to briefly cover are intellectual development, cognitive development and emotional development. It is important when working with Michael to understand the effects of any traumas he has been through with his birth parents inability to provide adequate parenting skills. The effects Michael may have suffered in his development need to be addressed by the worker.


Paediatricians, Health visitors and psychologists can measure the intellectual skills of babies and young children and observe change in learning capacity over time. This assessment is particularly important when a child’s development or family situation is giving cause for concern. When Michael went to his foster home he may have shown signs of having little incentive to explore or play. This could have been due to not having a satisfying relationship, suitable guidance or control of behaviour.

Michael has probably not experienced an orderly world and this limits his capacity to learn. He may have problems with late speech development, due to lack of companionship and conversation from his birth mother. Naomi Chomsky (1975) theory provides some evidence to suggest that language goes through a sensitive period when children’s brains are developing and they are maximally sensitive to language input. Hopefully an enriched relationship with Michael’s foster carer would help to develop his speech. However if there were any presenting problems “daily minders and foster parents have important opportunities to help children in their care through conversation and play”(Holmes, 1982, p.32).


According to theory, all children have to pass through a fixed sequence of four stages of cognitive development (Piaget 1962). The sensori-motor stage: 0-2 years (approximately) The pre-operational stage: 2-6 years (approximately) The concrete operational stage: 6-12 (approximately) The formal operational stage: 12years (approximately) ( Flanagan 1994-1997, p107) This would make Michael at the pre-operational stage. According to Piaget (1962), the pre-operational child is still locked into an egocentric view of the world, and this restricts his mental abilities in certain fundamental ways.

Egocentric means, amongst other things, that the child is animistic, projecting thoughts, intentions and feelings on to inanimate objects (p.202). Egocentrism also means that the pre-operational child (Michael) is unable to comprehend points of view different from his own, according to Piaget Michael would be unable to recognise that a three-dimensional scene has several viewpoints apart from his own. Egocentrism also prevents the possibility of a true interaction in play, which would involve taking account of other children’s thoughts, feelings etc. The pre-operational ‘non-conserving’ child also lacks an understanding of underling constancies in the world: for instance, when a piece of clay is rolled out, the child is unable to comprehend that it’s a mount is conserved although its appearance is different (Piaget 1962, p94).

In this essay I will examine some of the different ideas which are expressed through two of the leading theories in the field of developmental psychology. These are; Piaget’s constructivist theory of cognitive development and Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of cognitive …

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