Concerned: Here are answers to questions that members of the public often ask.
Question: What should I do if a child tells me that he or she has been abused?
Answer: It is important you believe the child and take action straight away by contacting the Social Services Department. The sooner you take action the more likely it is that the abuse will stop and the child will recover from his or her experiences.
Question: What will Social Services do when I contact them to report my concerns?
Answer: Social Services take all child protection reports seriously. When you telephone someone will take all the details. Your concerns will be properly considered and acted on by the manager.
Question: Will I have to give my name?
Answer: If you do not want to give your name you do not have to do so. However you can give your name and address and ask that it be kept private and confidential.
It is helpful if you provide a contact number so that you can be contacted for further details and to be informed, as far as possible, what is happening.
The information you provide will be taken seriously whether you give your name or prefer to remain anonymous.
Question: What happens when I have told Social Services about my concerns?
Answer: The person you speak to will listen to your concerns and take all the details. She will then report it to a Social Worker who is trained to deal with child protection. The Social Worker may want to contact you for a further discussion.
The Social Worker will check their records to see if the Department knows the child or family. The Social Worker will discuss your report with the Team Manager. Further background information is then gathered from the child’s school, health visitor or doctor and any other professional person involved with the child/family.
When these inquiries are completed the Team Manager will make a decision whether to start a formal child protection inquiry or to gather more information or that no further action is needed because at an early stage is becomes clear that the concerns are not founded.
Question: Will I be told about what is happening?
Answer: Child protection matters are highly confidential. The Social Worker should tell you later if your call has been followed up but you will not be given any other details, as this will be confidential.
Question: If I report my concerns will the child be put into care?
Answer: The Social Services will make their inquiries to ensure the child is being looked after safely and support given to the child and family if it is required. The Social Services recognise that most children do best if they are brought up within their families. It is only in rare circumstances when a child is at risk of immediate serious harm that the Social Services will apply to the court for an order to remove a child from its parents.
Question: Is child abuse easy to recognise or prevent from happening?
Answer: It is difficult to say that a child has been definitely abused or who has done it. The Social Services and other agencies will need to share the information they have about a child and family in order to do a full assessment to find out what has happened and what support and protection will best help the child and family. It is therefore difficult to avoid some intrusion into family life.
“A Guide to Understanding Child Abuse for Members of the Public” is available on this website.
Question: Why do adults abuse children?
Answer: No one knows exactly why some adults abuse children. There may be many different reasons. Stress, problems, unhappy circumstances, the feeling of having no power in adult relationships, and having been abused as a child may all play a part. But it is hard to predict with certainty which factors cause an adult to abuse a child.
Some adults may convince themselves that there is nothing wrong with their behaviour, or that it is for the child’s own good. Whatever the reason given by the adult, abuse is always wrong and it is never the child’s fault.
It isn’t only adults who abuse children. Sometimes older children abuse younger ones. It is important that this is stopped as soon as it is discovered.