Professional: Safeguarding Children - For ChildCare Providers
This guidance aims to give all people who work with and care for children a clear understanding of child protection issues and the action they must take if child abuse is suspected or disclosed to them.
It is based on the All Wales Child Protection Procedures and the guidance documents ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ and ‘Safeguarding Children: Working Together For Positive Outcomes’.
Child abuse is a very difficult subject for everyone. However as a consequence of the close contact you have with children it is likely that you will be the first person to notice the signs of abuse. This guidance is therefore intended to assist you in understanding your role in safeguarding children by providing information on:
- The signs and symptoms of child abuse.
- What you should do if you suspect child abuse or a child tells you they are being harmed.
- What happens after you report your concerns.
The impact of abuse on children can be profound, long lasting and seriously affect their health and development. Child abuse undermines a child’s sense of security, confidence and self-esteem. In particular it can result in:
- Serious injury or death
- Failure of children to reach their full potential
- Profound behaviour difficulties.
- Developmental delays.
It is therefore important that everyone working with and caring for children should be familiar with this guidance.
Recognizing Child Abuse
Child abuse occurs as a result of either someone inflicting harm on a child or by failing to prevent harm. The following information about types of abuse is intended to increase your awareness of circumstances when you should be concerned.
Physical abuse can take a number of forms. Injuries to a child may be inflicted by hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scolding, drowning, or suffocating.
In addition the following examples are suggestive that physical abuse may have taken place:
- Conflicting accounts and explanations given by the child and parents about how an injury occurred.
- Bruising in places not normally hurt during play, such as the back of legs, stomach and groin areas.
- Bruising in and around the mouth area, in particular with young babies.
- Multiple bruising in clusters.
- Abusive bruises often carry the outline of the implement used, including single or multiple bruising due to being hit with a rod like instrument, an imprint of a hand, or electrical cord.
- Finger mark bruising, for instance you may see 3 or 4 small bruises on one side of the face and none on the other.
- Bites – these can leave clear, oval impressions of teeth and if the distance across is more than 3 centimetres it indicates that it has been caused by an older child or adult.
Points to note:
- Bruising is very uncommon in babies who are not yet mobile.
- It is extremely rare for a child under one year to sustain fractures accidentally.
- Fatal non-accidental head injuries and fractures can occur without bruising. A doctor should see any child who has unexplained signs of pain or illness promptly.
- The head is by far the most common site of bruising in child abuse.
Fabricated Illness Spectrum
This occurs when a child is taken for medical care for an illness that has been deliberately created by the parent or carer. The child therefore receives unnecessary medical treatment.
Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic needs. It may also involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing, protect a child from harm or danger, or failure to ensure access to medical care. It may include neglect of a child’s basic emotional needs.
The following examples may be indicators of neglect:
- A child frequently appears hungry and asks for food.
- Consistently clothed inappropriately for the weather conditions, and/or consistently dirty.
- A delay in seeking medical advice and treatment for the child, which is obviously necessary.
- Repeated failure of parents to prevent accidental injuries.
- Developmental delay.
Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative and non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or in watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.
- Most child victims are sexually abused by someone they know – either a family member or someone well known to them or their family. The child is likely to have been put under a lot of pressure not to reveal what has been happening. In addition, as a result of the abuser’s ‘grooming’ behaviour many children are made to feel guilty and responsible.
- Very young children or children with special needs may not be aware or have the language to describe what is happening to them. It is particularly difficult in such cases to assess possible abuse by an adult or one of the child’s siblings.
Some possible signs that a child may have been sexually abused:
- Something a child tells you.
- Explicit or frequent sexual preoccupation in talk and play.
- Hinting at sexual activity or secrets through words, play or drawing.
- Sexualised behaviour, such as pretend sexual intercourse during play.
- Sexually provocative relationships with adults.
- Itching, redness, soreness or unexplained bleeding from the vagina or anus.
- Repeated urinary tract infections.
Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill treatment of a child such as to cause severe adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to a child that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. It may involve causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of ill treatment of a child, though it may occur alone.
Some possible signs that a child may have been emotionally abused:
- Very low self esteem, often with an inability to accept praise from adults.
- Excessively clinging and attention seeking behaviour
- Over anxious – either over watchful, constantly checking or over anxious to please.
- Withdrawn and socially isolated.
- Sudden speech disorders.
There is not a clear dividing line between one type of abuse and another. Children may show signs of one or all of the categories. In addition, a child will be emotionally abused as part of any other form of abuse.
What To Do If You Suspect, Or Are Told, Of Abuse.
It is important that you should know what to do if you suspect that a child is being abused, or if someone tells you that this is happening. The following extract from the All Wales Child Protection Procedures is helpful:
If someone tells you that he or she or another child is being abused:
- Show that you have heard what they are saying, and that you take their allegations seriously.
- Encourage the child to talk, but do not prompt or ask leading questions. Don’t interrupt when the child is recalling significant events. Don’t make the child repeat their account.
- Explain what actions you must take, in a way, which is appropriate to the age and understanding of the child.
- Do not promise to keep what you have been told secret, as you have a responsibility to disclose information to those who need to know. Reporting concerns is not a betrayal of trust.
- Write down what you have been told, using the exact words if possible.
- Make a note of the date, time, place, and people present at the discussion.
- Report your concerns to your line manager or person in your organisation with designated responsibility for child protection.
- Ensure that your concerns are immediately reported to the Ceredigion Social Services Contact Centre and follow this up in writing. Do not delay.
- Do not confront the alleged abuser
- Do not worry that you may be mistaken. The Social Services Department will always take you seriously. It is better to have discussed it with somebody with the experience and responsibility to make an assessment.
If a child tells you something it is often because they trust you. They may never tell anyone again.
It is also important never to think that abuse in your own organisation is impossible, or that an accusation against someone you know well and trust is bound to be wrong. If you suspect someone in your organisation, or any child, or adult of child abuse the All Wales Procedures offer the following advice:
If the behaviour of any adult (including colleagues and members of the public) towards children causes you concern.
- Do not dismiss your concerns.
- Do not confront the person about whom you have concerns.
- If it is a person with professional responsibility for children discuss your concerns with that person’s line manager. If you feel that this is not appropriate, or you are not satisfied with the response that you get, contact the person with responsibility for child protection in your agency or the Ceredigion Social Services Contact Centre.
- It is important that you do not ignore or dismiss suspicions about another professional.
The Care Standards Inspectorate for Wales should be informed immediately after making the child protection referral to Ceredigion Social Services Contact Centre, if the childcare provider is registered with them.
Making A Referral
Make sure you have a copy of your own agency’s child protection procedures available.
Follow your agency’s guidance, for instance childminders must record all incidents and observations in their accident book.
Always pass information to your manager without delay or contact the Ceredigion Social Services Contact Centre directly.
The telephone number for Ceredigion Social Services Contact Centre is 01545 574000. If there is an emergency outside office hours telephone 0845 6015392.
Give as much information as you know or can find out:
- Full name, date of birth /age and address of the child.
- The same details about other children and adults in the household.
- The reason for concern
- Exactly what was said or seen, with full details of the alleged abuse/ concern about possible abuse.
- Where the child is now.
- Whether the parents are aware of your referral. Details of other professionals involved with the child and family.
However don’t delay the referral if you only have a few details.
- Confirm the referral in writing to the Ceredigion Social Services Department within 2 days.
Communicating With Parents and Carers.
- Every parent or carer should be made aware of the childcare provider’s child protection policy as part of his or her introduction to your service.
- All childcare providers need to inform parents or carers when they begin working with or caring for their child that they have a duty to report suspected child abuse or neglect.
- Any injury visible on a child, whether accidental or non accidental, should be recorded in the accident book as soon as a child arrives. Parents/carers should be encouraged to tell you about injuries that have happened outside the day care setting. If an injury is clearly visible on a child it is appropriate to ask the parents or carers about the injury. Do not be afraid to ask questions or make observations like, “What happened?” or “ I noticed when Carys got changed that she had a painful looking bruise under her arm.” When you have brought this to the attention of the parent/carer let them know you will record it in the accident book and ask them to sign and date the record.
- If it appears to you that a child has been harmed in some way by the parents or someone else you should seek advice from the Social Services Department, who will decide whether it is a child protection referral. It is good practice to tell the parent that you intend to inform Social Services unless by telling the parents you are worried that the child may come to further harm.
- If you have concerns about parental neglect of the child or a damaging emotional relationship between the parent and child you may have previously spent time discussing this with the parent. It is good practice to inform the parent or carer that you are contacting the Social Services Department. It may be helpful to remind them of your duty to report concerns in accordance with your child protection policy. However you may consider that speaking to the parent will increase the endanger the child, and is therefore inappropriate.
- If you have concerns that a child has been sexually abused then you should contact the Social Services Department immediately without informing the parents that you are doing so.
What Happens After You Make A Referral
When the Ceredigion Social Services Contact Centre receive a referral it is passed to the Children and Families Assessment and Support Service. The Duty Social Worker may telephone you back for further information.
The Team Manager will then decide, following some initial inquiries, if it is a child protection referral. If so, a social worker will carry out child protection inquiries. These are often undertaken with police officers from the Ceredigion Public Protection Unit. You will be informed if this is going to happen.
If there are still concerns about the welfare of the child after the child protection inquiries a Child Protection Conference will be held. This is a multi-agency meeting which you may be asked to attend, or to send a report if you cannot attend personally. Your report should be based on facts and include your concerns as well as any positive features about the child and family.
You can contact the Child Protection Chair for any advice about the conference and your report.
Useful Contact Numbers
Ceredigion Social Services Contact Centre.
Ceredigion Social Services Department Out of Hours Service.
Dyfed Powys Police, Ceredigion Division.
Bronglais Hospital, Aberystwyth.
Care Standards Inspectorate for Wales, Ceredigion Office.
Care Standards Inspectorate for Wales, Regional Office.
NSPCC Child Protection Line: 0800 800 500
Childline: 0800 1111