Decision‐making under uncertainty in child protection: Creating a just and learning culture

Eileen Munro - Child & Family Social Work


The argument is made for having a positive error culture in child protection to improve decision‐making and risk management. This requires organizations to accept that mistakes are likely and to treat them as opportunities for learning and improving. In contrast, in many organizations, a punitive reaction to errors leads to workers hiding them and developing a defensive approach to their practice with children and families. The safety management literature has shown how human error is generally not simply due to a “bad apple” but made more or less likely by the work context that helps or hinders good performance. Improving safety requires learning about the weaknesses in the organization that contribute to poor performance. To create a learning culture, people need to feel that when they talk about mistakes or weak practice, there will be a constructive response from their organization. One aspect of reducing the blame culture is to develop a shared understanding of how practice will be judged and how those appraising practice will avoid the hindsight bias. To facilitate a positive error culture, a set of risk principles are presented that offer a set of criteria by which practice should be appraised.