Professional Curiosity

Working with children and families can be more challenging during the COVID 19 pandemic, with less opportunities for ‘face to face’ meetings and visits, resulting in a move to using online methods or phone calls instead.

The restrictions COVID 19 has put on a practitioner’s ability to visit families and pick up visual clues has meant that we need to think of more creative ways to identify how we implement professional curiosity through either phone or video calls.


What do we mean by 'Professional Curiosity'?

Professional curiosity means that you don’t take a single source of information and accept it at face value. 
It means:

  • testing out your professional assumptions about different types of families.
  • triangulating 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.

It is a combination of looking, listening, asking direct questions, checking out and reflecting on ALL the information you receive.


Why is Professional Curiosity important?

A lack of professional curiosity can lead to missed opportunities to identify less obvious indicators of vulnerability or significant harm. We know that in the worst circumstances this has resulted in death or serious abuse as confirmed by the Learning from case reviews, both nationally and locally where practitioners have responded to presenting issues in isolation.

How to be professionally curious

When making contact with a child or family member on the phone or by video call, the usual clues that help you detect any safeguarding issues, wont be available to you.

Here are some tips to help you:

On the phone


Can you speak freely?

Are there other members of the family in the room that can hear our conversation?

By asking the child or family member if they can talk openly (closed question) should give you an indication of whether there is the potential for guarded answers to your question. By establishing this at the very beginning you can reduce the pressure on them.

Can you move to another room?

Asking them if they can talk in another room or outside might help them to talk more openly. It may be that you might need to talk another time.
Agreeing a code word Agreeing a code word between you and the person you are talking to so you can quickly establish on further meetings whether that person can talk safely and openly.


It should be recognised that children or families that cannot talk openly means there may be coercion and controlling behaviour within that family


Video calls

Consider the following:

  • Is there anything about what you are seeing which prompts questions or makes you feel uneasy or concerned?
  • What is the body language telling you?
  • Are you observing behaviour which is indicative of abuse or neglect?
  • Does what you are seeing support or contradict what you are being told?