Social Work staff in both Trusts work in partnership with families and other agencies to keep children safe in the WHSSB area. The volume and complexity of work associated with protecting children continues to be at a high level. The WACPC Annual Report has identified that in the past year (2002 / 03) there were 504 potential at risk referrals to social services.
Although Social Services staff in the Board and in the Trusts have responsibility for child protection services, a multi-agency approach is absolutely essential. There is no doubt that assessing the requirements of and providing services to families whose children are in need of protection cannot be delivered by one agency alone. Child protection services including post registration practice requires close working relationships between a number of agencies, notably Social Services, Education, Health and the Police.
The ACPC and the Child Protection Panels in Foyle and Sperrin Lakeland Trusts accord high priority to effective child protection practice despite the considerable pressures and challenges within the Family & Child Care Programme. Each child whose name is on the Child Protection Register has a Case Co-ordinator who is a Social Worker, an identified Core Group, i.e those members of the multi-professional team who work directly with the family and a Child Protection Plan, the purpose of which is to ensure the Child's safety and well-being.
One of the key issues for Social Workers in this area of work is trying to identify the level of significant harm likely to be experienced by the child. Clearly this has an implication for risk assessment and risk management. The volume of work currently undertaken means that many Social Workers have to balance the roles of surveillance and policing with offering family support and therapeutic input. On occasions, requests for more frequent Case Conferences and Core Group Meetings, with parental involvement in them, has increased workload pressure but has good outcomes for families.
The lack of investment following implementation of the Children Order has had an impact on Child Protection work. It is difficult to identify resources to meet all of the components of the Child Protection Plan. Furthermore, it has been suggested by Trust Social Work Managers that if sufficient foster care resources were available, younger children in some instances would be Looked After rather than being with their families and potentially at greater risk.
What Is Child Abuse?
Thousands of children suffer long-term emotional and psychological problems because of ill-treatment by their own parents or those looking after them. A small number of these children die following incidents of abuse or neglect. There are four main types of abuse, though a child may experience more than one type of abuse at one time in his or her life. For example the child may be both physically and emotionally abused.
1. Physical Abuse
Physical abuse is when parents or adults deliberately inflict injuries on a child or, knowingly, do not prevent them. It includes hitting, shaking, squeezing, burning or biting. It also includes excessive force when feeding, changing or handling a child. Giving a child poisonous substances, inappropriate drugs or alcohol, and attempting to suffocate or drown a child are also examples of physical abuse. Physical abuse can cause injuries including bruises, burns, fractures, internal injuries and brain damage. In the most extreme cases, physical abuse can cause death.
2. Emotional Abuse
Emotional Abuse is when parents continuously fail to show their child love or affection, or when they threaten, taunt or shout at a child, causing him or her to lose confidence and self-esteem, and to become nervous or withdrawn.
Emotional abuse hurts children very deeply. Children need love, reassurance and praise from their parents so that they can feel confident and happy in themselves. When adults are constantly threatening, angry, sarcastic or critical they can make children feel unloved and unlovable. This can have serious effects on the child's personality and even on their physical growth and development. The child may find it hard to form successful relationships as he or she grows up.
Neglect occurs when parents fail to meet their child's essential needs, such as adequate food, warmth and medical care. Leaving children who are too young to look after themselves alone or without proper supervision is also an example of neglect.
Children who are neglected usually show signs of being unhappy in some way. They may appear withdrawn or unusually aggressive, or they may have lingering health problems or difficulties at school.
4. Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse takes place when an adult or older child forces a child to take part in a sexual activity, using a child to satisfy their own sexual desires.
Sexual abuse can have very damaging, and long lasting effects. Studies have shown that sexually abused children if not helped may become abusers themselves, or may get involved in personal relationships which involved violence or abuse.
Adapted from an original idea put together and published by NSPCC.
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Source: Area Child Protection Committee What is abuse?.
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