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Child abuse reporting is the reporting of child abuse in all its forms (abandonment,child neglect, child sexual abuse,emotional abuse, child physical abuse, etc) to appropriate people, eg doctors, teachers etc.
How you report child abuse will depend on your role: you may need to speak to someone within your service such as your manager or clinical supervisor, or you may be expected to report your concerns directly to children's social services. Where possible you should investigate local child protection procedures which will tell you exactly what steps to take. They also give details of professionals with special responsibility for child protection, who can give you advice and guidance if you are not sure how best to act. Do you know where to find the local procedures and who are the named and designated doctors and nurses to go to for professional advice? Make it a priority to find out and have the information to hand so it's there when you need it. In many juridictions most educatioan and health services will have child abuse reporting policies and you should make sure you understand these
Usually it is best to tread gently, sharing your concerns with others including the child (as appropriate to their age and understanding) and involving parents and carers where it would not put the child at risk. Research shows that support for parents and families is often the key to preventing further abuse or neglect. So in general, you should discuss your concerns with the child's parents and seek their agreement to making a referral to children's social services unless you consider such a discussion would place the child, or other children, at an increased risk of harm. If you think that a parent or carer may be responsible for sexual or serious child physical abuse you should not discuss this with the parents without advice from the police or children's social services.
However, in some circumstances, you may have good reason to believe that the child is at immediate and serious risk. If so, the child's safety must come first, whatever the impact on the child's parents or carers.
Full guidance is available in What to do if you're worried a child is being abused (2006).
Factors reducing the willingness to report
However the reporting of child abuse is affected by a number of factors:
Patient confidentiality is a fundamental principle in health and, where possible, a patient's consent to sharing information should be sought. However, if you have reason to believe a child may be at risk of significant harm, you must share your concerns with children's social care whether or not you have consent. Other agencies may also have evidence of risk which may, with yours, raise the level of concern. Inquiries into child deaths have shown that failure to share information was critical.
Good professional practice if you are involved in reporting abuse
- Know who to contact if you have concerns about a child.
- Build good working relationships with other agencies.
- Keep all comprehensive notes uptodate and
- Keep a dated, signed and legible copy of concerns.
- If any child "disappears" check out what is happening and report any concerns.
All school, education departments, health service departments etc should have clear written guidelines regarding child protection and the procedures for abuse reporting. These should be updated as needed, particularly with names and phone numbers of contacts. The guidelines should outline procedures that minimise the opportunities for abuse by team members and other colleagues.
Reporting of child abuse
- Main article: Child Protective Services
Depending on the country, the agencies responsible for investigating child abuse are either managed nationally, regionally, or locally. These agencies may be called Child Protective Services (CPS), Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), or by other similar names. In the U.S., these agencies are usually listed in the state government section of the telephone book under "Children" or "Health" or "Human Services". In a few instances in the U.S., some of the functions of these agencies are outsourced to private individuals or companies.
People who investigate claims of child abuse may be called a "children's social worker" (CSW) or a case worker.
Reporting abuse and neglect in Australia
Child abuse and neglect is the subject of mandatory reporting in most Australian jurisdictions. Usually professional people such as doctors, nurses and teachers are bound to report strong evidence of abuse or neglect. State authorities, such as the Child Protection Unit of the Department of Human Services (Victoria), have statutory authority to investigate and deal with child abuse.
A document from Child Protection and Family Services, in Melbourne states: "The service system is facing escalating and changing demand pressures and we are increasingly aware of growing client complexity. Too many children, young people and families are coming back into the child protection system on a repeat basis with services making little impact on their issues. The analysis confirms this and identifies the need for a strategic rethink if we are to achieve better outcomes for vulnerable children, young people and their families. "
Reporting Abuse in the UK
All professionals who work with children, such as teachers, health professionals and the like are required to report to social services (or the police as appropriate) any 'concern' amounting to possible 'significant harm' (neglect, physical, sexual or emotional abuse) regarding a child's welfare. The police and social services operate a multi-agency approach in cases of serious abuse. A system of referrals to Social Services so that one authority held all information started in the 1960s following the death of Maria Colwell, but was insufficiently effective and a number of notorious cases over the years have resulted in several major overhauls of the system, the most recent following the death of Victoria Climbie in 2000. Social Service departments, organised regionally, are required to investigate reports of abuse, keep records and take appropriate action to protect children. This can range from the provision of advice and support to families through to immediate removal under an Emergency Protection Order, and Care Proceedings which may result in permanent placement of the child outside the family. The threshold to enable a court to make an order is actual or likely significant harm. In care proceedings the welfare of the child is paramount and all information affecting the welfare of a child must be disclosed by professionals, including lawyers, regardless of their clients' interests.
Procedures to expect once reporting has been done
Once you have reported your concerns to children's social services, the police or the voluntary sector, the responsibility for gathering information and deciding what happens next rests primarily with children's social services.
In some cases, a brief assessment might reveal one or more unmet needs, which can be solved by providing support of some kind. In other more serious cases the information you have provided will trigger a thorough check of records involving a number of organisations and, if there is confirmation of your concerns, this may lead to a full child protection investigation. If there is evidence to suggest that a child is at continuing risk of abuse or neglect, a child protection conference will be held.
- ↑ Pyke, Brownwyn Integrated Strategy for Child Protection and Placement Services. (pdf) URL accessed on 2007-10-17.
- “What to do if you are worried a child is being abused?".(Department for Education and Skills 2006)
- Every Child Matters website .
- example child abuse reporting form
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