‘The process of protecting children from abuse or neglect, preventing impairment of their health and development, and ensuring they are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care that enables children to have optimum life chances and enter adulthood successfully.’ (Source: Working Together to Safeguard Children, 2006).
It is essential that children are safeguarded from maltreatment and impairment of their health and development not only to prevent the terrible day-today suffering some children are subjected to, but also to ensure that children are safe from these abuses to protect their long-term well-being (Combrink-Graham, 2006: 480). Deliberate and sustained maltreatment, which includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children, is not confined to any particular group or culture; it pervades all groups, classes and cultures.
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So as practitioners it is our professional duty of care to ensure that every child has the same amount of safeguarding as the next. It is also vital that as Early Years professionals we understand the roles and procedures of the services available for children and families so that we may offer the best advice possible. There are two areas of guidance statutory and non-statutory.
LOC1- analyse the role of statutory, voluntary and independent service in relation to children and families.
A service which is defined as statutory is one that the Local Authority have a legal duty to supply. The Local Authority is obliged by statute to provide some services, for example, social services, NHS hospital, health professionals, the police and probation service, youth offending teams, secure training centres, childminders and schools. They all have a duty under the Children Act 2004 to ensure that their actions are clear with regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. (Source: Working Together to Safeguard Children, 2006).
Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is the responsibility of the local authority (LA), working in partnership with other public organisations, the voluntary sector, children and young people, parents and carers, and the wider community. (Source: Working Together to Safeguard Children, 2006).
The role of statutory services in relation to children and families is to employ professionals who are committed to the cause of helping children to stay safe. The services need to employ staff that understands their responsibilities and duties in these difficult situations, so any organisation that deals with safeguarding children needs to make sure that all members of staff are safe to work with children and young people by providing a thorough identity check. Also the organisation that provides this service needs to be equipped to deal with any allegations including ones made against staff by having clear procedures in place. All staff have to have regular up to date training and understanding of the subject while working in this environment and they also need to understand the correct procedures if working with partner organisations.
The voluntary sector is undertaken by organisations that are not for profit and non-governmental such as charities like Childline, the NSPCC and churches. This sector plays an important part in providing information and resources to the general public who may be unable or afraid to contact other sectors about the welfare of some children. They may also specialise in a particular area of abuse and may have greater and better understanding of the subject as their members of staff have experienced more in-depth training. Like the public sector their staff paid or volunteers need to go through the same process as the staff from the public sector that is stated in paragraph 2.8 in Working together to Safeguard Children 2006.
Like the voluntary sector, the independent sector also has to abide by the regulations that come with working towards safeguarding children. The Independent sector is not financed through the taxation system by local or national government, and is instead funded by private sources. Such independent services are private schools, boarding schools, private counsellors and private charities such as UNICEF. A non statutory service is one which may or may not be supplied, at the discretion of the authority concerned.
LOC2- Evaluate the legislation framework and procedures for child protection at national and local level.
There are several legislative frameworks/laws and procedures for child protection at national and local level which are continually being amended, updated and revoked. One of the significant pieces of legislation is The Children Act 2004 which led to a considerable change in the way services are directly concerned with serving children and families. As a result of consultation with children and families following Lord Laming’s enquiry into the terrible and tragic death of Victoria Climbié, the government announced its plans to restructure children’s services to help achieve five outcomes for well-being. The government outlined these outcomes in its Every Child Matters (ECM) agenda, stating that to achieve well-being in childhood and in later life children and young people want to:
enjoy and achieve;
make a positive contribution; and
achieve economic well-being (DfES, 2004b).
These five outcomes for well-being are now the goals for Every Child Matters and all services that are concerned in the education and welfare of children and young people are bound to ensure these outcomes are achieved.
The Every Child Matters Outcomes Framework (DCSF, 2008b) for enabling children and families to be safe requires that Early Years settings and primary schools must demonstrate that they are enabling children to be safe from maltreatment, neglect, violence and sexual exploitation, and from accidental injury and death, and that children and young people have security, stability, are cared for and are safe from bullying and discrimination. This is a very complex area for those who work with children, or intend to work with children, in part because of the amount of legislation that is attached to these issues.
The Education Act 2002 places a duty on Early Years settings and schools to safeguard and promote the welfare of all children, including ensuring they provide a safe environment themselves and take steps, through their policies, practice and training, to identify ‘child welfare concerns and take action to address them, in partnership with other organisations where appropriate’ (HM Government, 2006:13). The Education Act 2002 also places this duty on childminders and any organisation that provides day care for children – of whatever age.
Locally the group of people responsible for co-ordinating what is done by organisations in Essex to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and to ensure the effectiveness of this activity is the Essex Safeguarding Children Board (ESCB).
Despite all of the legislation and policies, preventable tragedies like Victoria Climbié and Baby P continue to happen. It is vital therefore that child protection agencies learn from these terrible events and continue to amend their policies. Legislation is also put in place not just to protect against harm to children but also to give protection to the professionals working with children and their families.
LOC3- Debate theories of abuse such as medical, feminist, social and psychological models.
The general public’s usual opinion of an abuser is that they are abnormal, sick or criminal. The reasons for abuse may be deep and complex. The actions of an abuser are definitely wrong but why did they take them? There are lots of different theories as to why abusers abuse. Some of the more widely held theories are:
The social model definition is where it is believed that a child copies the behaviour of adults around them. Albert Bandura (1977) referred to the social learning theories of other important professionals in child development such as Vygotsky and Lave. This theory includes aspects of behavioural and cognitive learning. He believed that behavioural learning assumes that people’s environment cause people to behave in certain ways. Also he believed in cognitive learning which is when someone experiences or acquires knowledge, he presumed that psychological factors are important for influencing how people behave.
Another theory is the medical model. John Bowlby (1969-80), is recognized as one of the most prominent theorists in researching social effects on child development, in particular he is famous for his ‘attachment theory’ (Flanagan, 1999). When Bowlby first began discussing this theory his work focused on the importance of the attachment a child has with its mother. The present accepted theory is that children can form a number of attachments with adults other than their biological mother, what is important is that children need caring and nurturing relationships in order to thrive, and not simply the basic needs of food and shelter (Foley et al., 2001; 211).
Bowlby believed that there was a critical period of bonding in the first year of life. Much research has been done that suggests a strong correlation between mothers who have not formed a strong attachment to their children and child abuse and neglect. If not treated conditions such as postpartum depression (or post-natal depression as it is more commonly known) could lead to the mother having a negative attachment with the child developing into neglect which is a form of abuse without the mother realising.
Another influential theorist in the area of child development is Erikson (1902-1994) who in the 1960s devised a model of human social development that focuses more on the impact of background and environment on development, rather than genetic determiners. This is known as a psychosocial model (Miller, 2003). The importance of this theory is that it explores how the beliefs, attitudes and values we grow up to hold are shaped by our genetic predisposition towards incentive acts and how the environment we grow up in impacts on those natural characteristics. Therefore, Erikson maintains, we are distinctly shaped by our formative experiences. If this is so, then the experiences a child will have while they are young will impact on their life as an adult, including on their attitudes, beliefs and values.
A different opinion as to why abusers abuse is the psychological model. Psychological theories focus on the instinctive and psychological qualities of those who abuse. This theory believes it is abnormalities within the individual abuser that are responsible for abuse, for example, abusive parents may themselves have been abused in childhood (Corby, 2000). Although the flaw is that psychologists have failed to establish a consistent personality profile for a child abuser when compared to another form of abuser.
Feminists believe that the Feminist model may be the answer to the actions of an abuser. The feminist model suggests that child abuse like domestic violence is a result of unequal power in the family. Cossins (2000) believes that abuse is done by man to women and is about male masculinity and power. But this does not take into account female abusers. Professor Lynne Segal suggests that the ideas of masculinity emphasises control and power. This assumes that all men have power and women and children do not have power (Bell, 1993). This theory also needs to include not just gender and power issues but to consider race, class and culture as well (Reavey and Warner, 2003).
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The Cycle of violence is another model, it is based on the view that children who live with domestic violence will learn that abuse is acceptable and will become either an abuser or a victim. While experiencing or witnessing domestic violence can have a serious impact on children and young people, they will respond in various ways depending on their age, race, sex, culture, stage of development, and individual personality. By no means do all children who have lived with domestic violence grow up to become either victims or abusers. Many children exposed to domestic violence realise that it is wrong, and actively reject violence of all kinds. There is not much evidence to support this model.
Although all these models give some insight into why an abuser would abuse there is no one type of abuser, so there can be no one model. What we would consider a child abuser in this country is not the same standards as other countries. Not one of these models can solely explain the actions of a child abuser. Finkelhor (1986) understood that and was a critic of single factor models. He also believed that women were just as capable of abuse as men are.
LOC4- Describe the categories of abuse and the possible effects on the child, family and workers.
What comprises abuse is open to wide debate, because some researchers will state that what one group in society deems to be abuse, another will claim is a ‘normal’ part of child rearing practice. For example, the smacking debate. Is it acceptable to smack a child? There is a legal acceptance that where a smack doesn’t leave a lasting mark it is not abuse, but if it is continuously done and escalates then this would be classed as abuse. The point at which any practice becomes abusive is the point at which it becomes ill-treatment, likely to impair health or physical, emotional, social or behavioural development (DfES, 2006).
The categories of child abuse are physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect. Most often if a child is suffering from one of the categories like physical or sexual abuse they are likely to be suffering from emotional abuse as well, as the categories link into one another.
As Early Years practitioners we need to keep an eye out for any signs of physical abuse, which are usually visible to the eye, such as unexplained injuries, bruises or burns. Other signs of physical abuse are if the victim refuses to discuss injuries, gives improbable explanations for injuries, has untreated injuries or lingering frequently recurring injuries. If the parents administering of punishment appears excessive, if the child shrinks from physical contact, or they have a fear of returning home or of the parents being contacted, or a fear of undressing, or a fear of medical help these could also be a sign of physical abuse. Physical abuse can lead to the child becoming aggressive towards other children and bullying. An abused child may display over compliant behaviour or a ‘watchful attitude’, have significant changes in behaviour without explanation, their work may deteriorate and they may have unexplained patterns of absences whilst bruises or other physical injuries heal. In some cases the child may even try to run away.
Another form of abuse is emotional abuse; this is one of the hardest types of abuse to recognise as there are often no outwardly visible signs. Emotional abuse is about messages, verbal or non-verbal, given by a care giver to a child. Almost all children are subjected to emotional abuse to some degree. Even the most caring of parents will at some time give children quite negative messages, this is why it is hard to detect emotional abuse.
Examples of emotional abuse are deliberately humiliating a child, making a child feel ashamed for not being able to do or understand something which they, in fact, are developmentally incapable of. Other signs of abuse are expecting a child to put the needs of other family members before their own. Persistently verbally abusing a child, or constantly threatening to leave a child on their own as a punishment is abusive whether or not the threat is carried out. Making threats of other cruel and excessive punishments and/or carrying them out, telling a child that he was not wanted, was a mistake, or was the wrong gender, isolating a child, preventing them from socialising with their peers and continually putting a child under unfair moral/emotional pressure is abuse. Some adults may also not realise that exposing a child to age-inappropriate activities such as television, films and computer games is also classed as emotional abuse.
The DfES (2006) What to Do if You Are Worried a Child Is Being Abused document defines sexual abuse as:
Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, including prostitution, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual on-line images, watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways. (DfES, 2006: 9).
The definition of neglect is ‘the persistent failure to meet a child’s physical and/ psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development’ (DfES, 2006: 9).
Some examples of neglect are failure to feed a child adequately, not providing appropriate clothes or bedding, giving inadequate basic physical care, the child having no boundaries or consistency, the child not being safe, not attending to a child’s medical needs and failure to meet or recognize a child’s emotional needs.
The definition of neglect clouds with shades into the definition of emotional abuse. While both these definitions make sense, they are somewhat blurred around the edges. When we talk about ‘severe’ actions it can be difficult to decide whether, and at what level, to intervene.
There have been studies that show evidence that neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse are all associated with reduced intelligence in children (Carrey, 1996). While this study shows an example of the effect abuse can have, sometimes a child can grow up with a positive attitude and have a successful life. But this is not to say that all survivors are successful in life and obviously some people suffer terrible ongoing issues related to their experience of abuse. Such as being able to trust anyone or in the case of sexual abuse never being able to let anyone touch them and the damage is permanent. Abuse can also affect the family by breaking it apart and separating the abuser from the abused.
LOC5- Evaluate ways of enabling children to protect themselves, and ways of supporting children who have been abused.
We can’t expect children and young babies to protect themselves. So the government and schools try to communicate a universal message to children to try to protect them. Such as bullying is wrong, to be nice to one another, to eat well and look after each other and to promote a positive environment. We should always take children seriously and listen to what they are saying, as this is a way of improving our ways of providing support.
There are four methods that are used with children in need and their families, each of which needs to be carried out effectively in order to achieve improvements in the lives of children in need. They are assessment, planning, intervention and reviewing (DfES, 2006).
As an Early Years professional you should be aware of the local procedures to be followed for reporting concerns about a particular child. If you have any concerns about a child, they must be reported to the school’s designated senior member of staff or a senior member that is appointed child protection supervisor. This may be where your involvement may end or you may need to be involved further. The practitioner will discuss with a manager and/or other senior colleagues what they think the appropriate action should be, then if there are still concerns a referral to the Local Authority children’s social care team will be made, followed up in writing within 48 hours. The social worker and manager then acknowledge receipt of referral and decide on the next course of action within one working day. An initial assessment is required to decide if there is any concern for the child’s immediate safety.
The initial assessment should continue in accordance with the assessment framework which is a chart that states what the needs of a child are. If there is reasonable cause to suspect the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm, children’s social care should arrange an immediate strategy discussion. The purpose of the strategy discussion is to agree whether to initiate section 47 of the Children Act 1989. It is also to identify the appropriate tasks and timescales for each involved professional and agency, and agree what further help or support may be necessary. If the child is likely to be harmed then the police and other relevant agencies are called.
Next there would be a child protection conference and the results from that would determine whether a core assessment is made which is where the family and other professionals agree a plan for ensuring the child’s future safety and welfare. If the results are that the child is in sufficient harm then the child becomes the subject of a child protection plan, which is where the difficulties of the child will be made known to partner agencies. This will be followed by giving the child a key worker and a child protection review conference, the purposes of the child protection review is to review the safety of the child.
Usually, the decision to keep a child’s name on the protection register is reviewed every six months, depending on the circumstances. A child protection review conference can decide that a child’s name should be removed from the register. This decision will only be made when the child protection review conference is satisfied that the child is no longer at risk of significant harm. A young person will also be removed from the register once he or she turns 18. Obviously the worst case scenario is when a child dies due to abuse and nothing was done to help them. As Early Year professionals it is extremely important that situations like this never happen and that is why these procedures are put into place.
Professionals can intervene by working with children and families to help protect them. There are support systems in place for children and their families provided by local government and sometimes connected to the school. Sure start is one such system. Sure start is a government programme which provides services for children and their families. It works to bring together early education, childcare, health and family support. Services provided include advice on health care and child development, play schemes, parenting classes, family outreach support and adult education and advice. If there is a case of suspected abuse but it is decided that there is no need to remove the child or the parent following the families’ assessment, Sure start can be recommended to the family as a place for family development.
In this country there are 11 million children, 4 million have been identified as vulnerable (disabled), 400,000 have been identified as ‘children in need’, 32,000 are on the child protection register and 63,000 are ‘looked after’ (in foster care). These statistics have gone up since the terrible tragic death of Peter Connelly (Baby P) in 2007. (http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=348).
We live in a highly complex and diverse society and as professionals it is part of our responsibility to ensure we are not confusing what we think is the case, or what we would like, with what is really the case. As Early Years practitioners we need to approach individual children and families with an open mind. While we believe we know what, a perfect world is, we also know that families come in all shapes and sizes, and that all families are likely to need support to help them.
To make sure that all children get the correct and full treatment/service needed to make sure that they are safeguarded against abuse all practitioners/professionals should work together and communicate to achieve this goal.
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