Being professionally curious is not simply about asking the question. It is about the language used, creating a trusting relationship, a safe space in which to disclose and giving time to children and young people so they do not feel pressured.
Professionals often come into contact with a child, young person or their family when the child is vulnerable to harm. These interactions present opportunities for protection that should not be missed. Professional curiosity is the capacity and communication skill to explore and understand what is happening within a family rather than making assumptions or accepting things at face value.
Children rarely disclose abuse directly to adults working with them and, if they do, it will often be through unusual behaviour or comments. This can make identifying abuse and neglect difficult for professionals across all agencies.
It is better to help children as early as possible, before issues get worse. All agencies and professionals working with children and families need to work together the first step is to be professionally curious.
Curious professionals will spend time engaging with families on visits using their skills to observe and interact. Do not presume you know what is happening in the family home, ask questions and seek clarity if you are not certain. Do not be afraid to ask questions of families, and do so in an open way so they know that you are asking to keep the children safe, not to judge or criticise. Be open to the unexpected and incorporate information that does not support your initial assumptions into your assessment of what life is like for the child or children in the family.
What you should always aim for
- Have empathy and hear the Voice of the Child
- Know the factors that are barriers to professional curiosity and take steps to reduce them.
- Be courageous and ask difficult questions.
- Think the unthinkable; believe the unbelievable
- Consider how you can articulate ‘intuition’ into an evidenced, professional view and discuss ‘gut feelings’ with other professionals.
You can find more practical guidance on Professional Curiosity from the Partnership’s range of Seven Minute Briefing documents. You can access all the Briefings in the Resource Library section of this website.