The Childcare Act 1991 provides the legislative basis for dealing with children in need of care and protection. The promotion of the welfare of children is the paramount principle underpinning the Act.
This policy is informed by that Act and by the following policies:
- Children First – National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2011
- Child Protection and Welfare Practice Handbook
- Our Duty to Care: The principles of good practice for the protection of children and young people.
These guidelines and template have been developed to assist Diversity Sligo staff , members and volunteers to put in place a Child Protection policy as outlined in Children First. They have been drawn together by the Directors of Diversity Sligo.
It is important to recognise that a child protection policy is only of real value if it is implemented. This requires the commitment of the Directors of Diversity Sligo, its staff and volunteers to actively ensure all areas of the policy are being put in place, to attend ongoing training in the area of child protection and to ensure that parents, children, staff and volunteers are aware of the policy. Having a child protection policy is only part of a process to develop good practice and regular reviews should take place to ensure it is working.
- CHILD PROTECTION POLICY STATEMENT
We, the Directors of Diversity Sligo, members, staff and volunteers are committed to safeguarding and protecting children from harm. The safety and well being of all asylum seekers and refugees coming into contact with us, but particularly children, is our paramount concern.
This Policy recognises that all children have the right to be protected from harm, treated with respect, listened to and have their views taken into consideration.
This Policy commits Diversity Sligo to ensuring that all Child Protection or Welfare issues which arise are dealt with without delay. It comprises both a policy and practice document. In relation to the latter, the specific steps to be taken when a child protection concern is reported are outlined below.
This Policy acknowledges that all children that Diversity Sligo comes into contact with live in a family context with their parents or guardians having primary responsibility for their care and welfare. A child is defined as anyone under the age of 18 years who is not, nor has ever been, married
- ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE AGAINST STAFF, MEMBERS OF DIVERSITY SLIGO OR VOLUNTEERS
As part of their policy the following actions will take place if there is an allegation of abuse of a child by a staff, Diversity Sligo Members or volunteers.
The parents/guardians will contact the TUSLA Duty social worker to discuss and/or report their concerns.
Diversity Sligo responsibility
In the event that an allegation of abuse is made against Diversity Sligo staff, members or volunteers, or residents, the relevant DLP will contact the TUSLA Duty Social Worker and co-operate fully with any investigations. Any further action in relation to such an allegation will be based on consultation with the Social Work Department.
- CONFIDENTIALITY STATEMENT
This policy recognises that, in the event of an allegation, suspicion or disclosure being made to a member of staff or to either one or the other Diversity Sligo Designated Liaison Person directly, it is not possible to promise “not to tell”.
Any information provided to the Social Work Team of Tusla or to An Garda Siochana will remain confidential. Those receiving information will only disclose it where on balance the welfare of the child requires it. The parents and children have a right to know when information is being shared unless doing so would put the child at further risk.
Legal protections in reporting child abuse
Unless it can be proven that it was made in malice, any Child Protection Report will be accepted as being made reasonably, in good faith and in the best interests of the child.
A person who makes a bona fide report to a DLP under this policy is given qualified privilege under the common law. The person making the report to the DLP would be assumed to be acting in the child’s best interest. Under the common law, privilege from civil liability can be displaced where it can be established that the person making the report acted maliciously.
The Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act, 1998 provides for
- Immunity from civil liability for any person who reports child abuse “reasonably and in good faith” to designated officers of Child and Family Agency (CFA TUSLA) or any member of Garda Siochana.
- Significant protections for employees who report child abuse. These protections cover all employees and all forms of discrimination up to, and including, dismissal.
- The creation of a new offence of false reporting of child abuse where a person makes a report of child abuse to the appropriate authorities “knowing that statement to be false”.
Child abuse can be categorised into four different types: neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse. A child may be subjected to one or more forms of abuse at any given time. More detail on each type of abuse is given below.
In the Children First: National Guidance, ‘a child’ means a person under the age of 18 years, excluding a person who is or has been married.
Definition of ‘neglect’
Neglect can be defined in terms of an omission, where the child suffers significant harm or impairment of development by being deprived of food, clothing, warmth, hygiene, intellectual stimulation, supervision and safety, attachment to and affection from adults, and/or medical care.
Harm can be defined as the ill-treatment or the impairment of the health or development of a child. Whether it is significant is determined by the child’s health and development as compared to that which could reasonably be expected of a child of similar age.
Neglect generally becomes apparent in different ways over a period of time rather than at one specific point. For example, a child who suffers a series of minor injuries may not be having his or her needs met in terms of necessary supervision and safety. A child whose height or weight is significantly below average may be being deprived of adequate nutrition. A child who consistently misses school may be being deprived of intellectual stimulation.
The threshold of significant harm is reached when the child’s needs are neglected to the extent that his or her well-being and/or development are severely affected.
Definition of ‘emotional abuse’
Emotional abuse is normally to be found in the relationship between a parent/carer and a child rather than in a specific event or pattern of events. It occurs when a child’s developmental need for affection, approval, consistency and security are not met. Unless other forms of abuse are present, it is rarely manifested in terms of physical signs or symptoms.
Examples may include:
- the imposition of negative attributes on a child, expressed by persistent criticism, sarcasm, hostility or blaming;
- conditional parenting in which the level of care shown to a child is made contingent on his or her behaviours or actions;
- emotional unavailability of the child’s parent/carer;
- unresponsiveness of the parent/carer and/or inconsistent or inappropriate expectations of the child;
- premature imposition of responsibility on the child;
- unrealistic or inappropriate expectations of the child’s capacity to understand something or to behave and control himself or herself in a certain way;
- under- or over-protection of the child;
- failure to show interest in, or provide age-appropriate opportunities for, the child’s cognitive and emotional development;
- use of unreasonable or over-harsh disciplinary measures;
- exposure to domestic violence;
- exposure to inappropriate or abusive material through new technology.
Emotional abuse can be manifested in terms of the child’s behavioural, cognitive, affective or physical functioning. Examples of these include insecure attachment, unhappiness, low self-esteem, educational and developmental underachievement, and oppositional behaviour. The threshold of significant harm is reached when abusive interactions dominate and become typical of the relationship between the child and the parent/carer.
Definition of ‘physical abuse’
Physical abuse of a child is that which results in actual or potential physical harm from an interaction, or lack of interaction, which is reasonably within the control of a parent or person in a position of responsibility, power or trust. There may be single or repeated incidents.
Physical abuse can involve:
- severe physical punishment;
- beating, slapping, hitting or kicking;
- pushing, shaking or throwing;
- pinching, biting, choking or hair-pulling;
- terrorising with threats;
- observing violence;
- use of excessive force in handling;
- deliberate poisoning;
- fabricated/induced illness;
- allowing or creating a substantial risk of significant harm to a child.
Definition of ‘sexual abuse’
Sexual abuse occurs when a child is used by another person for his or her gratification or sexual arousal, or for that of others. Examples of child sexual abuse include:
- exposure of the sexual organs or any sexual act intentionally performed in the presence of the child;
- intentional touching or molesting of the body of a child whether by a person or object for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification;
- masturbation in the presence of the child or the involvement of the child in an act of masturbation;
- sexual intercourse with the child, whether oral, vaginal or anal;
- sexual exploitation of a child, which includes inciting, encouraging, propositioning, requiring or permitting a child to solicit for, or to engage in, prostitution or other sexual acts. Sexual exploitation also occurs when a child is involved in the exhibition, modeling or posing for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification or sexual act, including its recording (on film, video tape or other media) or the manipulation, for those purposes, of the image by computer or other means. It may also include showing sexually explicit material to children, which is often a feature of the ‘grooming’ process by perpetrators of abuse; consensual sexual activity involving an adult and an underage person.
In relation to child sexual abuse, it should be noted that, for the purposes of the criminal law, the age of consent to sexual intercourse is 17 years for both boys and girls.
An Garda Síochána will deal with the criminal aspects of the case under the relevant legislation.
It should be noted that the definition of child sexual abuse presented in this section is not a legal definition and is not intended to be a description of the criminal offence of sexual assault.
Recognising child neglect or abuse
Child neglect or abuse can often be difficult to identify and may present in many forms. No one indicator should be seen as conclusive in itself of abuse. It may indicate conditions other than child abuse.
All signs and symptoms must be examined in the context of the child’s situation and family circumstances.
Guidelines for recognition
The ability to recognise child abuse can depend as much on a person’s willingness to accept the possibility of its existence as it does on their knowledge and information. There are commonly three stages in the identification of child neglect or abuse:
- considering the possibility;
- looking out for signs of neglect or abuse;
- recording of information.
Stage 1: Considering the possibility
The possibility of child abuse should be considered if a child appears to have suffered a suspicious injury for which no reasonable explanation can be offered. It should also be considered if the child seems distressed without obvious reason or displays persistent or new behavioural problems.
The possibility of child abuse should also be considered if the child displays unusual or fearful responses to parents/carers or older children. A pattern of ongoing neglect should also be considered even when there are short periods of improvement.
Stage 2: Looking out for signs of neglect or abuse
Signs of neglect or abuse can be physical, behavioural or developmental.
They can exist in the relationships between children and parents/carers or between children and other family members/other persons.
A cluster or pattern of signs is more likely to be indicative of neglect or abuse.
Children who are being abused may hint that they are being harmed and sometimes make direct disclosures. Disclosures should always be taken very seriously and should be acted upon, for example, by informing the HSE Children and Family Services.
The child should not be interviewed in detail about the alleged abuse without first consulting with the HSE Children and Family Services. This may be more appropriately carried out by a social worker or An Garda Síochána.
Less obvious signs could be gently explored with the child, without direct questioning.
Play situations, such as drawing or story-telling, may reveal information.
Some signs are more indicative of abuse than others. These include:
- disclosure of abuse by a child or young person;
- age-inappropriate or abnormal sexual play or knowledge;
- specific injuries or patterns of injuries;
- absconding from home or a care situation;
- attempted suicide;
- underage pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease;
- signs in one or more categories at the same time. For example, signs of developmental delay, physical injury and behavioural signs may together indicate a pattern of abuse.
Many signs of abuse are non-specific and must be considered in the child’s social and family context. It is important to be open to alternative explanations for physical or behavioural signs of abuse.
Stage 3: Recording of information
If neglect or abuse is suspected and acted upon, for example, by informing the HSE Children and Family Services, it is important to establish the grounds for concern by obtaining as much information as possible. Observations should be accurately recorded and should include dates, times, names, locations, context and any other information that may be relevant. Care should be taken as to how such information is stored and to whom it is made available.
Where a child protection or welfare record is being maintained, the parents/guardians must be informed.
All concerns relating to children will be recorded on the Standard Report Form and copied and stored. Subsequent records created relating to the concern should be linked with the completed form and may include:
- Records of conversations with parents and children, staff, volunteers, other professionals (Social Worker, Gardai, etc)
- Records of follow-up phone calls
- Formal correspondence
All child records must be kept in accordance with legislation under Freedom of Information Amendment Act 2003 (FOI) and Data Protection Act 1988 and 2003.
Diversity Sligo will have two Designated Liaison Persons (DLP) who will deal with child protection and/or welfare concerns that fall under the scope of this policy. One will deal with reports against Diversity Sligo staff, members or volunteers, the other will deal with reports against parents, other residents or others.
THE ROLE OF THE DESIGNATED LIAISON PERSON
The role of the designated Liaison person is outlined in Children First and Our Duty to Care. (National guidelines)
- The Designated Liaison Person can link informally with the TUSLA Duty Social Worker to discuss concerns around children.
- Where appropriate and when advised by the Duty Social Worker, as the Designated Liaison Person they will make a report without delay on a Standard Reporting Form to the local social work department.
- The DLP will undertake to be available and committed to undergoing further training in the area of child protection and positive childcare practices.
The DLP will deal immediately with the child protection and/or welfare concerns which arise.
Role of Designated Liaison Person
- Be the principal point of contact for any child protection or welfare issue which arises in the contact with parents and children living in Globe House or having moved from Globe House into the community
- Establish contact with the Duty Social Work Team which is responsible for child protection and welfare in the area
- Inform/Speak to parents regarding concerns, save in circumstances where the Duty Social Work Team instructs otherwise
- Ensure appropriate information is available at the time of referral and that the referral is confirmed in writing, under confidential cover
- Liaise with the Duty Social Work Team/An Garda Siochana and other relevant agencies
- Ensure that the exchange of information is made on a need-to-know basis only and that confidentiality is maintained as appropriate
- Ensure that an individual case record is maintained of all actions taken by the DLP and all documents relating to child protection concerns should be kept in a secure area.
A report should include:
(i)the name, address and age of the child (or children) for whom the report is being made;
(ii) the name of the child’s school;
(iii) the name and contact details of the person reporting concerns;
(iv) whether the person reporting is a professional, a person working with children or a member of the public;
(v) the relationship to the child of the person making the report;
(vi) a full account of what constitutes the grounds for concern in relation to the protection and welfare of the child or children, e.g. details of the allegation, incident, dates, description of any injuries, etc;
(vii) the names and addresses of the parents/carers of the child or children;
(viii) the names of other children in the household;
(ix) the name, address and details of the person allegedly causing concern in relation to the child or children;
(x) the child’s and/or parents/carers’ own views, if known and relevant;
(xi) the names and addresses of other personnel or agencies involved with the child or children, e.g. GP, social worker, public health nurse, Gardaí, etc;
(xii) any other relevant information.