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Professional curiosity

What is professional curiosity and why is it important?

Professional curiosity is where a practitioner explores and proactively tries to understand what is happening within a family or for an individual, rather than making assumptions or taking a single source of information and accepting it at face value.

It means:

  • Testing out professional assumptions about different types of families.
  • Considering information from different sources to gain a better understanding of family functioning which, in turn, helps to make predictions about what is likely to happen in the future.
  • Seeing past the obvious
  • Questioning what is being observed.

It is a combination of looking, listening, asking direct questions, checking out and reflecting on ALL of the information received. Professional curiosity is a recurring theme within safeguarding reviews, highlighting the need to fully understand a family’s situation. Therefore professional curiosity is important, as it enables a practitioner to have a holistic view and understanding of what is happening within a family and what life is like for the child and use this information to fully assess potential risks. Being professionally curious enables practitioners to challenge parents/ carers, in order to understand a child or young person’s needs, vulnerability or risk, while maintaining an objective, professional and supportive approach.

How can practitioners be professionally curious?

  • Explain at the first visit that you may have to ask personal or sensitive questions – set expectations and explain the process that you are following and the possible outcomes of this
  • Never disregard information because it does not fit with your understanding – be open to the unexpected and be willing to change your opinion
  • Do not make presumptions or assumptions about what is happening in a family home
  • Ask questions in an open and relaxed manner – explain that the intention is not to interrogate but to understand
  • Beware of inconsistent explanations, vague or retracted disclosures
  • Do not discount concerns just because they are unproven – concerns may be both valid and impossible to substantiate
  • Explanations from the family need to be collated with observation and other sources of information – is the overall picture consistent?
  • Home visits should include seeing the whole home, especially where the child sleeps when relevant
  • Think family – who else has an important role in the child’s life?
  • Seek consent to speak to the professional network– serious case reviews repeatedly find that had all of the information held by different agencies been collated it would have led to a much clearer picture of the risk to the child. Consider do you need to share information to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child/ren considering another legal basis such as public task? If needed consult your line manager or see information exchange section (See Information Exchange section).
  • Be aware of how your own background, culture and beliefs impact on the way you interpret a situation
  • Seek a second opinion – talk any doubts through with an appropriate colleague, i.e. (depending on your role) your designated safeguarding lead, in peer or line supervision
  • Use the day in the life tool to better understand the lived experience of the child and hear their voice.

Training

You can access the HSCP learning from reviews training sessions here.

You can access the IOWSCP training here.