P4- Identify appropriate responses where child abuse is suspected or confirmed, making reference to current legislation and policies.
M2- Justify appropriate responses where child abuse is suspected or confirmed, making reference to current legislation, policies and co-operation with a range of other professionals.
There is a different procedure for reporting child abuse depending on whether it is only suspected, or if it is confirmed. This links to disclosure, which is split up into direct and indirect disclosure. Direct disclosure is a verbal exchange of information- when a child directly shares the information with you and says they are being abused. Indirect disclosure is when you observe behaviour or signs of abuse, or see a child acting out the abuse, or using inappropriate language that could suggest abuse is taking place.
The flow chart below shows the referral process if you have concerns that a child is being abused. If direct disclosure has not taken place then it is important not to mention it to the child as this could not be the case, or if abuse is taking place and the case goes to court then it could be put in jeopardy as the child may repeat things you have said, rather than stating things in their own words for example. Instead it is necessary to record all kinds of information that may be relevant- pictures drawn, words said, observations seen, etc, to make up a clear account of the situation, and it is then necessary to discuss the situation with your line manager and then follow the referral process accordingly.
(DfES. 2006. p.12).
If a child discloses information to you then it is important to listen carefully to what the child is saying and to take everything that they say seriously. “Allow the child to tell you about what has happened, without stopping them or asking for more details. You may repeat things that the child said in an enquiring tone, where you are not sure about something, but do not ask them any questions.” (Flynn, H. et Al. 2004. p.128). This is so that the child doesn’t feel belittled or made to feel like a liar. It would have taken a child a long time to confront you and disclose the information as they thought they could trust you, therefore it is essential to retain this trust.
It is necessary to listen carefully to try and remember as much information as possible and then as soon as the child has left it is essential to write down everything that you have been told, with the date and the time so that there is a written record while it is still fresh in your mind. It is not appropriate to take notes while the child is talking as it will make them feel like you are not listening properly, and it will make them feel like they do not have your full attention which they will need at that time. It is also necessary to stay calm and to let the child know they are doing the right thing by telling you. If you panic it will upset the child and may put them at further risk. It is also necessary to let the child know that what has happened to them is not their fault, and that it has happened to other children before. This will help them to try and understand that they are not to blame, and to feel like they will survive it.
Make sure that you let the child know what will happen now they have told you- the referral process- and it is important that you tell them you can’t keep it a secret and you will have to tell somebody else what they have told you, irrelevant of whether they ask you not to, in order to help protect the child from further harm. It is important to “keep the child fully informed about what you are doing and what is happening at every stage.” (Tassoni, P. 2006. p.83). After having spoken to the child and recorded the information, it is necessary to discuss everything you have been told with your line manager and to follow the referral process. These responses come from guidelines and legislation such as the Children Act 1989 and 2004 as these state that it is a legal requirement to keep children safe. For example they state, “local authorities have a duty to investigate if they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm.” (Section 47).
The referral process is a set process which was laid down by the Local Child Safeguarding Board in conjunction with Every Child Matters and the ‘What to do if you’re worried a child is being abused’ report. It means that everyone who has concerns over a child’s welfare can follow the same procedure so that everyone is treated fairly and rules and regulations are adhered to. Part of the referral process is an assessment and “The Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families is a guidance document aimed at professionals and staff who will be involved in carrying out assessments on children and their families…The guidance is not a detailed manual, but provides a systematic framework for collecting information, involving the family and other agencies so that this information can be analysed and a clear plan of support produced.” (Flynn, H. et Al. 2004. p.82). This framework helps to link agencies and professionals together to work together to protect children. Legislation also state the importance of working in conjunction with parents when reporting abuse and the need to let them know what is happening, how to support the child and rest of the family, and what should be done to protect the child if a parent is the known abuser. In these cases parental responsibility can be removed and the child can be put into the care of another relative, or of the local authorities in order to protect them if a Care Order is acquired.
There is no single piece of legislation that covers child protection in the UK, but a variety of laws and policies that were passed as a result of child abuse cases, and the need to keep children safe. For example the Children Act was introduced partly as a result of the Denis O’Neil case in 1945; Child Protection Teams were set up as a result of the Maria Colwell case in 1974; and more recently, the Every Child Matters legislation was set up as a result of the Victoria Climbie case in 2000. The Children Act was updated in 2004 as a result of the Every Child Matters legislation. This Act places a stronger duty on multi-disciplinary teams to work together to protect children these include local authorities, the police, early years workers, social services, the health service, and the youth justice system, etc.
The Human Rights Act 1998 is linked to the implementation of no-smacking policies, etc, and the states that every child has the “right not to suffer ill treatment or cruel, unusual punishment.” (Flynn, H. et Al. 2004. p.41). The Data Protection Act 1998 refers to child protection cases that professionals should only disclose information about a child on a need-to-know basis. For example if a child discloses to their teacher that they are being abused, then the teacher reports to the Child Protection officer of their manager, then it is not necessary that any other member of staff needs to know about the case at that time. As a result of the deaths of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells in 2004 the Birchard Report was published and made recommendations about how information is shared and stored. All settings should have a child protection policy that incorporates information from many of the mentioned pieces of legislation and these should state who is the child protection officer in the setting, as well as detailing what action should be taken if you have concerns about a child in that specific setting.
P6- Describe how an early years worker co-operates with a range of other agencies in cases of suspected or confirmed abuse.
It is important that professionals and agencies co-operate and work together in child protection cases so that all the relevant, and correct information is available, and accurate in order to help and support the child. In recent cases, specifically that of Victoria Climbie, this was not done and therefore Victoria was put at further harm, and subsequently died when she could have been saved if the agencies had worked effectively and shared information. This is why the Every Child Matters legislation came about, to try and prevent this in the future. Children at risk need coordinated help from health, education, social services and other agencies, including youth justice services. These professionals are required to work together in order to protect the children and keep them safe, and to help bring to justice the perpetrators of crimes against children. As a result of Every Child Matters, now “children known to more than one agency will have a single named professional to lead their case.” (Flynn, H. et Al. 2004. p.244).
If an early years worker suspects child abuse then they should report this to the child protection officer in their setting, and then the officer reports it to the local Social Services and the process follows from there as to which professionals should be involved. However if the abuse is confirmed then the early years worker may be part of an investigation process, and it is essential that all records and observations be kept up-to-date and accurate in order to help the investigation. “Social Services has lead responsibility for assessing children in need and their families, but they also work in partnership with other professionals, who contribute information to the assessment.” (Flynn, H. et Al. 2004. p.83).
All agencies and professionals that have a part in a child protection case should:
* Be alert to potential indicators of abuse or neglect
* Be alert to the risks that individual abusers, or potential abusers, may pose to children
* Share and help to analyse information so that an informed assessment can be made of the child’s needs and circumstances
* Contribute to whatever actions are needed to safeguard the child and promote his or her welfare
* Regularly review the outcomes for the child against specific shared objectives; and work cooperatively with parents unless this is inconsistent with the need to ensure that child’s safety.
Agencies and professionals need to think about the protection of the child in all cases, and this may mean thinking about what could have happened, rather than what they believe to have happened for instance if the “social worker in the case feels there are serious child protection concerns about illness in a child being fabricated, whilst the GP thinks that this is only a minor problem of the mother being over-anxious. Both workers then become ‘stuck’ in this position, to the detriment of the child.” (Flynn, H. et Al. 2004. p.219). This was seen in the Jasmine Beckford case, as Social Services did not follow up concerns of her foster carers after she had spent time with her mother. Child protection conferences allow agencies and families to work together to exchange information, “which is then formulated into a child protection or family support plan.” (Flynn, H. et Al. 2004. p.219).
M3- Explain the steps which have been taken to ensure that the chosen activity recognises and values different religions.
Whenever a case of child abuse is examined and referred, it is done in line with Equal Opportunity policies and each process follows the same pattern irrespective of race or religion. It is necessary that early years workers are aware of different cultural customs and the terminology used. For example an African-Caribbean child may say that their mum ‘beat’ them, which actually refers to a ‘smack’ in British terminology. If the early years worker was not aware of this they may have serious concerns for the child and start the referral process for child abuse, but in the African-Caribbean culture it is common that parents ‘beat’ children to discipline them. As well as understanding terminology, it is also necessary to ensure that families are treated with equal fairness, but by still supporting their individual needs. An example of this may be if the parents of a child do not speak English, or speak very little, then it would be necessary to get a translator when speaking with the parents regarding any child protection concerns, or by having written correspondence translated.
This ensures that irrelevant of their native tongue they are still able to understand the child protection procedures in place. However this does not mean that they should be treated differently as a result of cultural or religious reasons, for example it would be inappropriate to show tokenistic gestures like a Social Worker turning up to the house of an Indian child with a curry. This is stereotypical and discriminatory. That said agencies and professionals should be aware of any beliefs as it may impact on the case if action cannot be taken due to beliefs. An example of this is if a Muslim child is abused then it would be inappropriate for Social Services and other agencies to send a male professional to the family home as it could impact on the case as the mother or any female relatives in the house may feel uneasy in his presence, and would therefore possibly not be as helpful than if a female went to the house. This is not the same as making allowances for the family; it is a case of supporting the family in the best way so that procedures can be carried out effectively. Another area that links to this is by agencies and professionals being aware of any religious dates or festivals that are important to the family, so that they can try to avoid visiting at these times if at all possible.
It is also important not to assume that “parents from a particular background are more or less likely to abuse their children” than from any other parents. (Tassoni, P. 2006. p.95). Relating to this it is important not to assume that all parents who ‘smack’ their children are abusers, as many parents, and many cultures, use this as a form of discipline. This relates to Victoria Climbie’s case as “assumptions were made about Caribbean methods of discipline, suggesting they were more authoritarian, and some of these assumptions led to Victoria being ignored by the authorities.” (Tassoni, P. 2006. p.96). Also in Victoria’s case it was assumed “that because her social worker was black she would have greater knowledge of Victoria’s culture. This was, sadly, a grave misjudgement.” (Flynn, H. et Al. 2004. p.21). In these circumstances and cases where professionals have concerns over a child’s welfare, “the Human Rights Act 1998 stipulates the basis on which governments can intervene in family life.” (Flynn, H. et Al. 2004. p.48). It is also important that all agencies and professionals involved in a child protection case have a level of knowledge about different ethnic minorities, in order to best protect the children.