Partners for Protection

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A group based programme for women who have an identifiable concern regarding their ability to protect their child/children from sexual abuse.

Type of intervention

Group work, individual work, game

Target groups, level of prevention and subgroups

  • Communities and Families | Secondary prevention | Young Adults (18-20 years), Adults (21+ years) | Female | Group work, individual work, game
  • Communities and Families | Tertiary prevention | Young Adults (18-20 years), Adults (21+ years) | Female | Group work, individual work


Target population

The group is open to women aged 18 years and over, where there is an identifiable concern regarding their ability to protect their child/ren from sexual abuse. The women must have an allocated Children and Families Social Worker. They are not required to have current child care responsibilities, nor must they currently be in a relationship with an offender. The offender may be a family member or friend.

Delivery organisation

Barnardo’s Scotland.

Mode and context of delivery

Women are referred by a Social Worker.

The group consists of four to eight participants.

The group experience has a mixture of experiential and psychoeducational content reflecting a balance between the women’s’ own emotional needs and the needs for increased awareness and knowledge of child sexual abuse, with the overall aim of improved child protection. A range of techniques are employed including discussion, presentation, video, small and large group exercises, role-play and handouts with homework assignments where appropriate. Joining exercises, ground rules and time to relate individual circumstances are also an important part of the group.

Level/nature of staff expertise required

The group is run by staff with either Social Work or Therapeutic Qualifications who have considerable experience in the field of child sexual abuse and sexual offending, and who are therefore Senior Practitioners within the Specialist Service.

Intensity/extent of engagement with target group(s)

The group consists of eight full day sessions on a weekly basis (this can be increased if we have a group with a number of participants with learning difficulties). The group provides a mid-day meal which allows for further social interaction and relationship building. Throughout the group process the participants get one to one time and support from facilitators to individualise learning and to address issues that may arise during the group. In addition, the participant attends a screening interview, a mid-way review and a final meeting accompanied by the referring Social Worker.

Description of intervention

The programme has been developed in line with current evidence on effective work with mothers where there are issues related to their capacity to protect their children from abuse. It is based on the idea that mothers play a key role in protecting children from sexual abuse and are an integral and central component of relapse prevention and safer communities.

The aims and objectives are to:

  • Provide education and increased awareness of issues related to child sexual abuse, including offender tactics and practices, and effects of abuse
  • Promote development through emotional expression and improved self-awareness
  • Provide a supportive environment which enables women to express attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that can be assessed in relation to the capacity to protect


The group content will focus on factors which have been shown in the available literature, to be important in influencing a woman's capacity to protect. Using a variety of techniques, the programme will cover information such as the women's histories, the effects, signs, symptoms and impact of sexual abuse, aspects of sexually offending behaviour, managing disclosures and protection planning.


The program has been evaluated through both referrer and participant feedback; further information is available on request. Barnardo’s are about to undertake a larger, more detailed evaluation.


Finkelhor, D. (1984). Child sexual abuse: New theory and research. New York, NY: Free Press.

Levin, A. E., (1992). Group work with parents in the family foster care system: A powerful method of engagement. Child Welfare, 71 (5) 457-473.

Smith, G. (1994). Parent, partner, protector: Conflicting role demands for mothers of sexually abused children. In T. Morrison, M. Erooga, & R.C. Beckett (Eds.), Sexual offending against children: Assessment and treatment of male abusers. London: Routledge.

Strand, V.C. (2000). Treating secondary victims: Intervention with the non-offending mother in the incest family. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Wolf, S. (1985). A multi-factor model of deviant sexuality. Victimology: An International Journal, 10, 359-374.

Contact details

Email or

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RATING: Pioneering