Making sure children get 'HELD'
Ideas and resources to help workers place Hope, Empathy, Love and Dignity at the heart of child protection and support
By Nicki Weld

To see sections of this book in a PDF, please click here.

How children and young people are treated, especially by those closest to them, shapes their future relationships and social interactions. To help workers support and strengthen positive and protective relationships in children's lives, this book offers:
  • accessible explanations of key social and emotional competencies - hope, empathy, love and dignity - described here by the acronym of 'HELD'
  • practical strategies and resources to help ensure children get 'HELD', can truly live out their potential, and are protected within families and communities.

  • Based on the author's extensive experience in both child protection and - crucially - in work with families facing significant difficulty around having children with severe disabilities, this manual provides:
  • accessible explanations of each of the four 'HELD' competencies, along with brief examples
  • ten strategies for workers to support parents, families and communities in bringing each competency into action; and see why they are important to help protect, support and strengthen children's wellbeing and safety.
  • three resources that can be used to help explore the competencies with families and children. Each can be used on its own; or to support and enhance other information gathering tools, assessment frameworks, and intervention planning that workers may already use. They can be used with groups and families, or to help one-to-one work with children and young people, for example in schools or residential settings. These three resources are:
  • a summary sheet of the HELD competencies to give to parents and families as a resource to further support bringing them into action
  • the Three Houses information gathering tool, already widely used internationally, to help support engagement and enquiry and explore with parents, children and families how these competencies may or may not be present
  • a simple assessment framework to help workers analyse information they gather.

  • Most of the manual can be photocopied for use in staff development within local teams. (Precise permissions to copy are set out in the manual.) The strategy sheets and examples about each competency, and the summary sheet for parents can also be photocopied within those teams for use with clients.

    By focussing both on: what is missing in the lives of people who harm each other and - especially - children; and on what is present in families where children are cherished and harm does not happen, it is a resource that can:
  • enable parents, family members, workers, and communities to become actively involved in reducing the likelihood of children being harmed
  • support children and young people to develop resilient traits and healthy relationships as they progress on their journey to adulthood.

    Contains The Three Houses tool for interviewing children, highlighted in The Munro Review as leading the way in communicating with children (Community Care, 19 May 2011). Along with other resources in this book, it can be copied for use by staff in developing their work, within local teams within any department of a local authority or within local teams within any charity. For a longer piece about The Three Houses, see Weld, N. (2008) 'The three houses tool: building safety and positive change' in Contemporary Risk Assessment in Safeguarding Children, edited by Martin C. Calder (RHP, 2008).

    A4 wirobound. 80 pages. 978-1-905541-55-3. Published 2009. £19.95.


    For anyone, regardless of role or agency, who is working - or training to work - to support, strengthen and protect the wellbeing and safety of children and young people; especially social care workers across welfare, health, education and early childhood settings.

    In child protection or child welfare agencies, it complement and adds to existing resources by providing a way to explore the social and emotional inter-relational strengths and needs in a way that encourages a different approach to safer outcomes for children.

    For workers in education or health settings HELD is offered as an early intervention and prevention resource especially for children aged under five; but usable with children and young people of any age.


    Hope - having a positive sense of future
    Empathy - strengthening connection
    Love - providing a secure foundation
    Dignity - developing inner strength
    The Three Houses information gathering tool
    Assessing HELD - checklist for workers
    Resource sheet for parents


    Nicki Weld, BA (Political Science), MA (Applied Social Work)
    is currently a social work professional leader, and company director, in New Zealand. She has extensive experience in a variety of social service and child protection roles, including senior social worker, supervisor, senior trainer, national social work advisor, and consultant. Nicki has worked primarily in a New Zealand paediatric hospital service, and in the national Child Protection Agency. She co-directs a social services training company and delivers workshops both nationally and internationally, along with the provision of professional supervision. She is co-author of Walking in People's Worlds - a Practical and Philosophical Guide to Social Work (Pearson Education, New Zealand, 2008) and The Three Houses Tool: Building Safety and Positive Change (in Contemporary Risk Assessment in Safeguarding Children, edited by Martin C. Calder, RHP, 2008). Nicki has also written a number of journal articles. Her Three Houses information gathering tool is used in six countries and has been translated into Japanese and Swedish. Her passion is for child and family work, and she believes in the application of creativity and innovation through connecting head, heart and spirit to inspire people to reach their true potential. She can be contacted on


    "A good, strong and engaging workbook that provides indisputably accurate advice and grounded explanations… the language is clear and reachable… this book holds some gems." Child Abuse Review.

    "Passionate, compassionate and persuasive, making a convincing case as to why Hope, Empathy, Love and Dignity are so important...

    "Clear and easy to read... clearly underpinned by contemporary knowledge on child development. Reflecting the qualities of the heart, the argument is qualitative and of an inspirational quality.

    "At the end of each chapter are ten practical strategies for parents, families, workers and communities to ensure children get HELD. Again, these are clear, easy to follow and helpful. Case examples are provided to show how the author and parents have used these strategies with positive results. These examples are very poignant and moving in themselves...

    "The manual provides a number of resources which can be photocopied and used to aid thinking about HELD, gathering information, assessment, planning and intervention. I found the book to be informative, inspiring and also practical.

    "It makes you want to strive towards doing a better job but also to be a better person and gives you some clear ideas on how to put that in practice." Well-being