UK Network

Division of Clinical Psychology


Dissociation and risk: Using trauma-evidence to assess children and parents in child protection

Presenter: – Dr. Sam Warner

In this workshop, I draw on my experience of working as a clinical psychology expert witness in the British Courts to highlight how to use trauma-evidence to make sense of risk in child protect. I begin by outlining key laws and guidance that shape child protection and mental health practices and which provide ‘social frameworks’ for understanding children and parents. I demonstrate how a trauma-based framework can help in understanding the mental health and social needs of children and parents. I focus on articulating and exploring the relationships between abuse and dissociation in order to provide a means of assessing risk in child protection. I consider risk to self, to others and from others and demonstrate how to apply a trauma-based framework through every stage of the evidence-building process, including legal instruction, assessment, and evidentiary reporting. I demonstrate how using trauma-evidence can help the Courts to understand dissociation as a meaningful social practice and not simply as a symptom of mental disorder and that understanding in this way provides a richer understanding of risk that enables greater clarity regarding what helps adults keep children safe.

There will be opportunity throughout this workshop to ask questions about, and to share knowledge and experience of, using the Law to safeguard children and to understand the mental health and social needs of parents and children.

Dr Sam Warner is a chartered and consultant clinical psychologist (qualifying in 1991), and she holds an honorary lectureship in social sciences at Salford University. Sam works as an academic, consultant, expert witness, public speaker, researcher, therapist and trainer. Throughout Sam’s career she has specialised in sexual violence, child protection, domestic abuse and mental health. Sam has also been engaged by the Department of Health and British Government as an expert in mental health on both national and international sexual violence projects. Sam is currently providing clinical supervision to Barnardos Safer Future Services in the North West. She is also on the board of directors of BASPCAN, the five nation child protection charity.