Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 March 2021
Our book so far has shown when and how errors and mistakes arise as a relevant topic in welfare states with different child protection orientations in Europe (England, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland) and the United States. In this concluding chapter, we draw together what are seen as errors and mistakes in these countries. We explore what events have triggered discourses on errors and mistakes in the countries and what actions, reactions and non-actions are taken, to avoid and learn from them. We show the similarities and differences in dealing with errors and mistakes across the countries. Based on this, we point out the six key responses to errors and mistakes we have identified through analysing the country-specific chapters; and the views on errors and mistakes, strategies and consequences associated with them. We also discuss how the different child protection orientations (child focus, family service and child protection) are related to the actions, reactions and non-actions associated with errors and mistakes in these countries. Finally, we examine the questions that remain and suggest what future research is needed.
Landscape of errors and mistakes in the countries
In the conceptual chapter (Chapter 2), it is apparent that errors and mistakes in child protection cannot be defined in a universally agreed way. They can be specified as deviations from legal and/ or professional standards/ care/ duties (errors) and as actions or inactions based on misbeliefs, misconceptions or misunderstandings (mistakes). They are usually attributed to practitioners, who are seen as responsible. However, practitioners are not solely responsible for the origin and avoidance of errors and mistakes as errors and mistakes are influenced by several factors, for example by the predominant orientation towards child welfare – child protection, family service or child-focus (Gilbert et al, 2011). Consequently, the responses to dealing with them in services and organisations differ. In all chapters, we find a variety of understandings of errors and mistakes. They are seen and described differently, including as errors of decision making (false positive, false negatives), errors of practice (errors of omission, errors of commission), child perspective errors, procedural errors, mistreatments, (system) failures, tragic events, legal violations, abusive practices in institutions, irregularities, deficiencies or dysfunctions, organisational errors and policy implementation errors.