Working with Families
Chapter 2 of the All Wales Child Protection Procedures makes clear that "If any peron has knowldege, concerns or suspicions that a child is suffering, has suffered or is likely to be at risk of harm, it is their responsibility to ensure that the concerns are referred to social services or the poice, who have statutory duties and powers to make enquiries and intervene when necessary".
Parents are responsible for their children’s safety. Social workers become involved once concern is shared. A careful assessment will be undertaken before a decision is made about alledged abuse. Children are best cared for by their own families. We want to work in partnership with families. Very few children are removed from home following allegations of abuse.
Very few adults harm children deliberately and most often, when harm does happen, families need support, not punishment or the removal of their children. Social workers and other professionals get involved when parents or carers may be unable to protect their child from harm and need some help. In some cases the Police Public Protection Unit will investigate with social workers to help protect children and decide whether an offence has been committed against a child.
Issues that can affect family life are:
Parental alcohol and drug use
There are strong links between drinking or drug use by parents and the emotional development and well-being of their children.
Well over 1.8 million children in the UK are affected by drug and/or alcohol misuse by parents.
Drug or alcohol use is linked to problems including:
- damage to relationships;
- impact on family finances; and
- not being able to provide a safe and stable environment for children or young people.
Drug or alcohol use does not automatically lead to harm but it does lead to an increased risk of harm.
Drinking or drug use might just be something which is done when the children are away or in bed. But it can begin to take over.
Firstly children will be influenced by their parent's behaviour - when the answer to a problem or a crisis is to take a drink or some drugs. Things can progress to the stage that parents are not taking the proper care of their children or protecting them.
Children learn what they see and begin to think that alcohol or drugs are a solution to problems.
Often people start using drugs in a similar way to relieve stress or tension. No matter how careful they think they are, children and young people are often very aware of their parents’ behaviour. Both alcohol and drugs can affect their ability to look after children and have serious effects on them as they grow up.
Children may be reluctant to talk to adults because of stigma around alcohol or drugs or fear about the consequences. There is support available for children and young people to meet with others in similar circumstances. It is important that children and young people have a routine and the chance to do normal things like homework and socialising with friends. This is especially true if children or young people have to take on the role of caring for or being responsible for an adult.
What is abuse?
It takes many forms, signs to look out for:
The All Wales Child Protection Procedures definition of Physical Abuse states: 'Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, or scolding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or care giver fabricates or induces illness in a child who they are looking after.'
Some things to look for are:
- Unexplained injuries, bruises or marks
- Fear, watchfulness, over anxiety to please
- Small, round burns or bite marks
- Frequent absences from school
The All Wales Child Protection Procedures definition of Sexual Abuse states: 'Sexual Abuse involves forsing or inticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact including penerative or non-peneraive acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as: involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities or encouraging children to behave in sexually innapropriate ways.'
Some things to look for are:
- Comments about sexual activity
- Sexual knowledge or comments which are not what you would expect from a child
- Sexual behaviour which is not what you would expect from a child
- Unexpected reactions of fear or wariness to people
- Repeated urinary or genital infections
- Pregnancy/sexually transmitted diseases
The All Wales Child Protection Procedures definition of Emotional Abuse states: "emotional abuse is the persisitent emotional ill treatment of a child such as to cause severe and persisitent 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 in so far as they meet the needs of another person. It may feature age or developmentally in appropriate expectations being imposed on children. It may involve causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, for example by witnessing domestic abuse whithin the home or being bullied, or, the exploitation or coruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of ill treatment of a child, though it may occur alone."
Some things to look for are:
- Unexplained gifts or money
- Withdrawn, anxious behaviour, lack of self-confidence
- Self-harm and eating disorders
- Demanding or attention-seeking behaviour
- Unwillingness to communicate
- Repetitive, nervous behaviour such as rocking, hair twisting or scratching
The All Wales Child Protection Procedures definition of Neglect states "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. It may involve a parent or caregiver failing to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing, failing to protect a child from physical harm or danger or the failure to ensure access to apprioprate medical care or treatment. It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to a child's basic emotional needs.
In addition, neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance misuse."
Some things to look for are:
- The child’s clothes are often dirty, scruffy or unsuitable for the weather
- No one seeks medical help when child is ill or hurt
- The child is smelly and dirty
- The child is left alone or with unsuitable carers
- The child is thin, pale, lacking in energy
- Lots of accidents happen to the child
- The child is exposed to risks or dangers, such as dangers in the home or drugs or needles being left around
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Domestic abuse is a crime and a major social problem affecting many families. It is a controlling behaviour and a misuse of power, and includes all kinds of physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse. Children may experience many different effects from witnessing domestic abuse both in the short and long term which may affect them. Even if a child is not in the same room when the abuse occurs hearing the ill treatment of another person can still harm them.
- One in four women will experience Domestic Abuse at some point in their lives
- Domestic Abuse takes many forms from emotional, financial, to physical or sexual abuse
- Where there is domestic abuse there may be child abuse
- Children will often blame themselves for domestic abuse
- Children may often feel obliged to lie for their parent and are reluctant to speak to other adults about the situation
- Where there is domestic abuse there is more likely to be cruelty to animals
- Women are often most vulnerable during pregnancy
The emotional effects of a child living in a violent household should not be underestimated.
How does it affect children?
It is overwhelmingly women and children who are affected by domestic abuse and men who are abusers, although some men are abused. Children who witness, intervene or hear incidents are affected in many ways. What can be guaranteed is that children do hear, they do see and they are aware of abuse in the family. Children learn from example - domestic abuse teaches children negative things about relationships and how to deal with people.
- It can teach children that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflict.
- Children may learn how to keep inappropriate secrets.
- Children can learn to mistrust those close to them.
- Children may blame themselves for the abuse, especially if violence erupts after an argument about the children.
Children are affected in many ways by domestic abuse - every child is an individual and responses will vary.
In young children here are just some effects:
- Feelings of guilt and blame
- Fear and insecurity
- Emotional confusion
- Problems at School
- Copying the abuser's behaviour
- Being depressed, anxious or fearful
- Being very demanding
- Turn to drugs and/or alcohol
- Running away
- Problems at School
- Aggressive behaviour and showing anger
The longer children are exposed to violence and abuse, the more severe the effects on them are. Any type of abuse between adults will have a negative effect on a child.
- These can include:
- A lack of respect for the non-violent parent.
- Loss of confidence and self esteem, impacting in every area of life.
- Being overly-protective of their parent.
- Loss of childhood.
- Problems at school.
- Running away.
Effects on the adult being abused include:
- Loss of confidence and self esteem as an individual and a parent
- Being unable to bond with their child
- Not knowing what to say to their child
- Being unable to deal with their child's behaviour
- Feeling emotionally and physically drained
- Feeling undermined as an individual and a parent
Why do women stay?
Many people find it difficult to understand why women remain in or return to abusive situations. A combination of fear, love, the risk of homelessness and financial issues can make it very difficult for women with children to leave. Some women will want to remain in the family home and have the perpetrator leave.
If you are a victim of Domestic Abuse you can seek support from one or more of the agencies listed below