As a parent or carer, volunteer or member of staff in a service, the need to ensure children are protected is a fundamental part of your role. This should not overshadow other considerations such as helping children develop their own skills and strategies for assessing and dealing with risk; especially in terms of Play and Risk, but also in learning to understand what constitutes unacceptable behaviour towards them or others. There is far greater awareness within the policy framework around child protection about Children's Rights under the UNCRC, and this forms the underlying philosophy of the Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) approach.
Every service should have a Child Protection Policy and clearly set out procedures understood by staff, volunteers and parents on the actions that will be taken if a child is considered at risk or in need of protection.Child protection guidance outlines the following categories of abuse and neglect; therefore suspicions relating to any of these categories may concern a service enough to make a referral:
- physical abuse is the causing of physical harm to a child or young person
- emotional abuse: is persistent emotional neglect or ill treatment that has severe and persistent adverse effects on a child?s emotional development
- sexual abuse is any act that involves the child in any activity for the sexual gratification of another person, whether or not it is claimed that the child either consented or assented
- neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child's basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child?s health or development
The service's policy should detail in what circumstances they would seek to involve the statutory public authorities (multi-agency child protection team) by reporting their concerns to them. Parents should understand it is a professional duty of staff in childcare to alert their organisation's child protection officer (or designate) about any concerns they have about a child. It is then that person's professional duty to decide, without taking on a statutory investigative role, to pass on their concerns and information to the local multi agency child protection team.
The child protection policy should set out appropriate steps for staff to take, according to their role. The policy should direct how staff handle or discuss information received from children. This guidance should include believing and listening to children, and not interrogating them, reassuring them, but not promising not to tell anyone, and to involve relevantly trained senior staff as soon as possible. It should also set out the steps the service will take to keep the children and parents involved and informed on the processes being undertaken; where this is appropriate and consistent with the safeguarding of the child's wellbeing and welfare.
For more information on what happens if a child is referred to statutory child protection and how a child's needs are assessed please go to the Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) section