If an older child does not want to engage with services can we do anything or should we respect their wishes?

Judit Németh-Almasi's picture
14 Jan 2015 -- Judit Németh-Almasi

We should seek to understand why the child does not want to engage with services – do they have different priorities or perhaps do not have the same concerns / see the same needs as we do as adults.This is an area where we can and should engage the child in meaningful discussion and participation.

We should also consult with children about how can we meet their need in a different more creative way since their might be other options.For example a child might not want to attend a therapy session (thinking it useless etc) but may be happy to attend a life skills course (where they can learn new ways of relating to others).This is another reason why a needs led assessment and plan is more helpful than a service led one, as it helps tease out what is important.

Ultimately, if a child does not want to access a service, for older children who are more autonomous it can be difficult to ‘make’ them go – and this might also be very unhelpful in terms of developing a positive relationship with the young person.Sometimes allowing things to be ‘shelved ‘for a while can be useful as it can help children feel more respected and in control (and ultimately contribute to their development and recovery). The clear exception is where the service is necessary to keep the child safe.The wishes and feelings of children are important factors in the decision making process but the responsibility for protecting children always remains with adults.

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