The Role of Parents in the Child Death Review Process

Lauren Devine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article considers whether evidential and procedural issues identified in relation to public family law social work assessment of families can be used to further understanding of the Child Death Review Process. The process is an under-researched but important aspect of statutory family assessment. Pre-litigation stages of family investigation, particularly in relation to child protection and safeguarding are undertaken within the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families, set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children. The Child Death Review Process, also in Working Together to Safeguard Children is applied in cases of child deaths categorised as ‘sudden’ and unexpected’. Assessment of bereaved parents is particularly sensitive, highlighting the problems of mixing investigatory assessment with measures intended to be supportive. This paper questions the function of the Child Death Review Process, asking whether it forms part of a drift towards increasingly intrusive state surveillance of families and particularly parents, or is an attempt to ‘work together’ with parents following bereavement. If it is an investigatory process there are ramifications for subsequent decision making, including decisions made by courts in public family law or criminal proceedings. A clearer framework for assessment and inclusion of parents as part of (as opposed to subjects of) the process is indicated. Alternatively the process should be
removed from Working Together and carried out within the criminal justice framework, the public health framework and the Coroner’s framework.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalArgument and Critique
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

This is the author's accepted manuscript version of a paper published in Argument and Critique, licensed under the Creative Commons CC BY 3.0 license [].


  • Child Death Review Process
  • public family law
  • child protection
  • safeguarding
  • BRI Public Inquiry


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