Learning From Baby P: The Politics of Blame, Fear and Denial, by Sharon Shoesmith, Jessica Kingsley, London and Philadelphia, PA, ISBN 978-1-78592-003-5, 2016, 272 pages, $24.95.
Author Sharon Shoesmith takes an in-depth look at the case of Baby P, a child fatality in the London Borough of Haringey. Baby P, 17 months old at the time of his death in 2007, was the youngest of four children who had been receiving services through the Children’s Social Care Services. The professionals involved in his care were shocked at his death. The public outcry over the case, during which actions of social work professionals and the child’s pediatrician were heavily scrutinized, was strong and blaming. Dr. Shoesmith, who had been the Haringey Council’s Director of Education and Children’s Social Care Services at the time of the death, was relieved of her position.
In this book, Dr. Shoesmith explores both the emotional and psychological responses to horrific child abuse and neglect cases and interrelationships between the child welfare system, the media, and politics as she looks at reactions to the Baby P case. She examines the evolution of child protection practices and the impact of public sentiment and changing political ideologies upon this practice.
Dr. Shoesmith draws the reader’s attention to the complexities of the child welfare system, its impact on families and the social work professionals who serve them, and the undeniable impact of ever-changing political climates on the system and its practices. She reminds us that to blame the professionals serving these at-risk families is to deny the underlying issues that stress families.
This book—with its informative, thought-provoking analysis of the aftermath of the Baby P case—is a worthwhile read. It could also easily be utilized as a resource in social work education.
Reviewed by Doris Dodson, MSW, LCSW, Field Director and Assistant Professor, Mary Baldwin University.