The use of play skills during child protection and welfare assessments

Building relationships with children to explore attachment relationships

Authored by: Lisa O’Reilly , Pat Dolan

The Routledge Handbook of Global Child Welfare

Print publication date:  February  2017
Online publication date:  February  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138942752
eBook ISBN: 9781315672960
Adobe ISBN: 9781317374749


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This chapter explores how using play skills to engage with children during child protection and welfare (CPW) assessments can promote social workers’ understanding of children’s attachment relationships. The primary focus of this chapter is to set out the importance of child-centred engagement as a key measure in keeping children safe from abuse and/or neglect. Within the chapter, a case study is presented in relation to a team of eight CPW social workers engaged in a 20-hour play skills training programme (O’Reilly & Dolan, 2015) and their experiences of using play skills in their assessments. The social workers provided illustrative examples of children not being safe and secure within their attachment relationships. The term ‘attachment relationship’ is used to describe the child’s relationship with their primary caregiver(s) in terms of meeting the child’s needs for safety, stability, comfort and protection. Attachment is a key aspect of the child–parent relationship, with its function being to make a child safe, secure and protected. Benoit states that:

A normally developing child will develop an attachment relationship with any caregiver who provides regular physical and/or emotional care, regardless of the quality of that care. In fact, children develop attachment relationships even with the most neglectful and abusive caregiver. Therefore, the question is never, ‘is there an attachment between this parent and child?’ Instead, the question is, ‘what is the quality of the attachment between this parent and child?

Benoit, 2004, p. 543

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