Placement Solutions takes the lead on child protection
I have to admit to feeling quite proud on August 9 when our nanny agency launched our new Child Protection Policy and accompanying booklet. Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
We are, as far as I am aware, the first agency of our kind in Australia to document such a policy. Our policy is certainly the first of its kind to be accredited by Child Wise, one of Australia’s leading not-for-profit child sexual abuse prevention organisations.
Over 40 people attended our launch and received training in the policy and in child protection more broadly. However, this didn’t happen without a huge amount of work beforehand. We’ve been lucky to have working with us on the policy a lawyer with experience in child protection, who is now working with the Royal Commission intoWhy did we need to go through all this? In our view there is simply not enough child protection provided by the current laws and regulations covering in-home care. For instance, Victorian law does not mandate nannies to report child abuse or the indicators of it. In contrast to some states in the USA, where all adults are mandated to report child abuse, in Victoria this ‘privilege’ is given only to select groups.
Our belief is that adults – parents, carers or otherwise – have a moral and ethical responsibility to keep children safe and protect them from harm including, of course, physical or emotional abuse. We endeavour to always consider and act in ‘the best interests of the child’, as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and it is this principle that has driven, and formed the basis of, our policy.
Of course a policy isn’t much use unless it can be put into practice, so with this in mind we are providing training to all our staff and nannies in its implementation. What this means, first and foremost when it comes to child abuse, is knowing what to look for.
Child abuse is statistically broken up into four areas: sexual abuse, emotional abuse (including bullying), physical abuse and neglect. While sexual and physical abuse tend to get most of the media attention, emotional abuse and neglect can be equally serious. It goes without saying that many instances of abuse involve more than one of these.
In our training we learnt some challenging statistics, including that 94 per cent of all abusers are men. However, when a woman does abuse, the situation tends to be serious. The vast majority (95 per cent) of abusers are known to and trusted by the child. And, while it may seem obvious, it is worth reminding that abusers don’t look different to anybody else.
Our policy document is comprehensive, outlining everything from child abuse indicators to legislative and legal requirements on those reporting abuse, and what to do, and not do, in response to an allegation. We include a step-by-step guide to reporting and a code of conduct.
This policy will be central to our operation from now on. It will be reviewed annually.
If you would like to receive a copy of the policy, or have any questions about it, please contact the office.
Child abuse indicators
The following is an extract from the Placement Solutions Child Protection Policy
Signs that child abuse is or has occurred may vary, as children express their distress, worry, confusion or overwhelmed feelings and experiences in different ways. Further, children will often communicate how they are feeling through their behaviour, so parents and carers need to understand the reason behind any changes in a child’s behaviour or moods. Children may show confusion and distress through ‘acting out’ feelings and experiences, or may ‘switch off’, appear vague, be disconnected, or unable to listen or concentrate.
The following non-exhaustive list of potential indicators of physical abuse that may surface through children’s behaviour and play, depending on the type of abuse experienced. (The full policy includes indicators of sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect.)
- An explanation of an injury that doesn’t make sense.
- A child seems wary of particular adults*.
- A child reacts quickly to any raised voice or signs of anger.
- A child is always wanting to please or be affectionate with anyone or everyone*.
- The child stays close to the person in the group who seems to be in charge or have the most power*.
- Extremes of behaviour: aggressive or withdrawn*.
- Wearing the wrong type of clothing for the weather, which may indicate they are hiding marks or other injuries.
* This denotes indicators which may surface irrespective of the type of abuse involved.
When looking for signs of child abuse it is important not to jump to conclusions too quickly. This list therefore needs to be carefully interpreted to avoid over- or under-reaction. There will usually be a few of these signs together. Some are easier to notice than others, and some are signs which can be relevant to all forms of abuse.
It is important to check for a reasonable explanation for any physical or behavioural changes. Use your common sense and instincts along with your knowledge of the particular child. Think about what is reasonable to expect from children at different ages and developmental stages.