IPT Book Reviews

Title: Child Abuse Errors: When Good Intentions Go Wrong  Positive Review Positive Review
Author: Dennis Howitt
Publisher: Harvester Wheatsheaf 1992

Harvester Wheatsheaf
Campus 400
Hemel Hempstead
A division of Simon & Schuster International Group
ISBN 0-7450-1044-X


This 226-page book consists of 9 chapters which examine the history of error within the Child Protection System in Britain.  Theories which generate error and the pseudo science, on which much practice is based, are considered in depth along with the way in which sexual abuse as a problem has been socially constructed, which in turn generates further problems.

Quite apart from a theoretical explanation as to errors in child protection, the author presents case studies to demonstrate the impact on those individuals and families who are on the receiving end.


Social Work, more specifically the Child Protection System, has been subject to much adverse criticisms in the wake of individual inquiries and the bigger disasters such as Cleveland, Rochdale and the Orkneys.

Howitt, using psychological, historical, medical and sociological perspectives analyses why these errors and their attendant injustices have happened.  He expresses particular concern as to the way in which the Child Protection System sees itself as immune from both internal and external evaluation, with the result that CPS is not accountable for its actions or decisions.

In support of this thesis, he subjects the theory and research which underpins child abuse professional practice to rigorous analysis, showing in the process that much of the theory is unfounded and the research pseudo-scientific.

Howitt's work points to the need for a new organizational ethos within the Child Protection System, which regards errors, not as catastrophes, but as endemic to professional activity.  Such an approach, allied to objective rather than "in house" research, may contribute to a reduction in error and an improvement in practice.

Child Abuse Errors is one of the few attempts in the British context to analyze what is wrong with the child abuse system.  As such, it is essential reading for all those concerned with child abuse care and protection.  Similar works are available in the U.S.A. and those are identified in the comprehensive bibliography.

Reviewed by D. Long, Child & Family Counselor, Parents Against INjustice, 3 Riverside Business Park, Stansted, Essex, CM24 8PL, England.

Order this book: Hardcover  Paperback

Visit our Bookstore

  [Back to Volume 5]

Copyright 1989-2014 by the Institute for Psychological Therapies.
This website last revised on April 15, 2014.
Found a non-working link?  Please notify the Webmaster.