Parent: Child Protection Investigations
Who Is This Guide For?
You are probably reading this guide because someone has contacted Social Services and told them that your child may be at risk of harm or that you may be having problems caring for your child. Whatever may or may not have happened it is likely that you are feeling upset, angry and/or scared. We hope this guide will give you a better understanding about what is happening and why, and that it will help you to do something positive with your feelings.
If there is anything you do not understand, or if you have more questions, contact Ceredigion Social Services Department’s Families and Children Assessment and Support Service on 01545 574000 and a Social Worker will help explain.
What Is A Child Protection Investigation?
A child protection investigation usually starts because the child /young person, or a family member, or a member of the public, or a professional person who works with children, thinks your child is being harmed or is at risk of harm and reports their concerns to the Social Services Department or Police.
Ceredigion Social Services Department have a legal duty to investigate when they believe a child maybe at risk of harm. The law says that we must look into the matter by making enquiries about your child’s circumstances and take action to make sure your child is safe.
What Sort Of Harm?
There are 4 main types of harm which are described as: -
- Physical injury to a child.
- Sexual abuse.
- Emotional abuse
We will also make enquiries if a child is living with someone who has been involved in the abuse of a child in the past.
What Happens During An Investigation?
If it has been reported that someone has harmed your child a Social Worker and Police Officer are likely to visit and speak to you. The Police Officer will be a member of the Dyfed Powys Police Public Protection Unit. The Social Worker and Police Officer will have had special training in doing child protection enquiries.
The Social Worker/Police Officer will tell you what has been reported to them, but may not be able to tell you who contacted the Social Services Department.
The Social Worker and Police Officer will need to talk to your child and possibly to other children in the household. The interview with your child may be recorded as a written statement or be video recorded. A video interview is undertaken to reduce the number of times your child is spoken to and, if necessary, may be used as evidence in court. Your child will be encouraged to tell the interviewers what has happened in their own words. Arrangements will be made for you or another suitable adult to be with your child depending on the circumstances. The Police Officer will store the video in a safe place.
The Social Worker will also need to talk to people who know your child well such as your child’s Health Visitor, Teacher, and/or Family Doctor.
You may be asked to give permission for your child to be medically examined if it is believed that he/she has been injured or is in need of medical treatment. Other children in the family may also be asked to have a medical examination. In Ceredigion the Consultant Paediatrician, who has a lot of experience of working with children is the person likely to examine your child. In most situations you will be able to go with your child.
You and/or your child have a right to refuse a medical examination.
You and/or your child have a right to express a preference for a male or female doctor to do the examination.
Will My Child Be Taken Away From Me?
This is often a very real concern for families. In nearly all cases of reported child abuse the children stay at home with their families. It is usually best for the child and family if problems are sorted out at home.
Your child’s safety and welfare is the top priority above all else, but there is also a responsibility to try to help families stay together.
If, however, the Police Officer thinks the child is in immediate danger he/she can make arrangements to take the child to a ‘safe place’ for 72 hours. This may include staying with a relative, family friend, or foster carer.
If the Social Worker believes your child is in danger of serious harm, the Social Worker can apply to court to protect your child. Usually before a court decides your child needs to be looked after by someone else you will have a chance to put your own views to the court.
What Are My Rights?
You have a right to be seen, listened to and have your views taken into account during the investigation.
You have a right to be involved in what is happening and told about decisions that are being made, unless it would be unsafe or against the child’s interests.
You have a right to seek independent advice from a solicitor or other source.
You have a right to refuse permission for your child to be taken to be interviewed, to have a medical examination, and to go and stay elsewhere. However, if the Social Worker and Police Officer feel that this would place your child at risk of harm they may apply to court for your decision to be overruled.
You have a right to be told in writing about the outcome of the investigation when it is over.
You have a right to be able to complain, and have your complaint dealt with fairly, if you feel you were not treated properly.
Your rights may be dependent on the age of the child. If your child is old enough to agree to being interviewed and having a medical examination you may have no right to object. However the Social Services Department wants to work in partnership with parents and so unless there are good reasons not to seek your agreement you should expect to be consulted.
What If The Allegation Is Mistaken Or Malicious?
This does happen sometimes and it is acknowledged that it can be extremely difficult and upsetting. However the inquiries have to be made to ensure your child is all right. Social Workers and Police Officers doing the investigation always keep an open mind.
What If I Am Accused Of Harming My Child?
If it is believed that you have committed a criminal offence the police will formally interview you. Your rights will be explained and you have a right to seek legal advice.
What Will Happen After The Investigation?
One or more of the following may happen: -
- There will be no further action.
- An assessment of your family circumstances may be undertaken and a plan to advise and assist you and your child with services, subject to your agreement.
- A meeting called a Child Protection Conference may be arranged to decide what will happen next. There is a guide for parents and carers to Child Protection Conferences which will be sent to you by the Social Worker and is available on the website.
- Only in exceptional circumstances and when it is necessary to protect your child will legal action be taken.
What If English Is Not My First Language?
If you want the investigation to be conducted in Welsh every effort will be made for this to happen.
The Social Worker will make arrangements for an interpreter if they are aware that Welsh or English are not your first languages. Let the Social Worker know about any specific needs you or your child have so that communication can be as effective as possible
What Can I Do If I Am Not Happy With The Way I Have Been Treated?
If you wish to complain ask the Social Worker or the Social Services Department for information about complaints: -
The Complaints Officer,
Ceredigion Social Services Department,
Aberaeron SA46 0AJ
Tel. no: 01545 574000
- Professional workers know that usually the best way to bring up children is for them to be cared for within their family.
- The aim of the investigation is to work with you and ask for your cooperation in order to protect your child.
- If you are able to work with the people who are committed to help you and your child then your child will remain safe.
Where Can I Get Independent Advice And More Information?
- A Solicitor who is a member of the Law Society’s Children’s Panel – see website at www.solicitors-online.com
- The local Citizens Advice Bureau in Aberystwyth on 01970 612817 and Cardigan on 01239 613707.
- Family Rights Group Advice Line on freephone 0800 731 1696 (open Monday to Friday, 1.30 – 3.30 pm.) or www.frg.org.uk