The Marginalisation of Child Protection : the importance of keeping the protection and respect for our children at the core of our relationhips in care, education and health settings.

Date Posted: Monday, 26 May 2008

The following article is an adaptation of a handbook for a Child Protection course I presented to teachers and social workers in Wales in March 2008. Although it is directed to those working in education settings for children with special needs, I think it can also inform residential child care workers, day care workers, youth mentors and foster parents. A significant part of this article draws together general information about Child Protection  which is available in a number of  published guides about Child Protection and its related legislation.

(Note November 2011) Since this article was written, the phrase ‘child protection’ has in large measure been superceded by the phrase ‘safeguarding children’.

 

 

The Marginalisation of Child Protection : keeping our protection and respect for children at the forefront of our relationships in education, health and care settings.

 

                              

Child Abuse and its symptoms 

Neglect
Physical neglect
Medical neglect
Non-organic ‘failure to thrive’

Emotional abuse

Sexual abuse
Symptoms of sexual abuse
Self-destructive behaviour

Physical abuse
                                                                                      

The marginalisation of child protection

On a training course focused on child protection it may seem a paradox to talk about the marginalisation of child protection, but it is because there is a need for training days such as this that it is evident that child protection is marginalised. Why should we need such training ? After all it is surely evident to everyone that our children need our protection. Do we need to be reminded of this ?  It would appear so. Every so often our political and professional leaders stop us short and harangue us with the demand that we should be on the alert for potential crises which may face particular children involving neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse. We are then asked to focus on learning and familiarising ourselves with new child protection policies and procedures. When everything goes quiet again we seem to put it to the fringes of our collective mind.  Of course our need as professionals in children’s services to remind ourselves is in large part brought about by genuine concern for vulnerable children but – though I may be wrong to believe this – this institutionalising of ‘the child protection industry’ may also be brought about because of political and professional defensiveness. To put it more bluntly it is brought about  ‘to cover political and professional backs’.
The history of child care and the abuse of children in Wales and England over the last 35 years follows a path strewn first by the outrage that is child abuse, secondly the public outrage following child abuse scandals, thirdly by the official investigations into the scandals, and finally by the recommendations following each scandal which inevitably involve the introduction, as I have already suggested, of even more policies and procedures. Yet children are not protected by policy and procedure but by responsible, thoughtful, caring and conscientious adults.

This training is concerned with how we in our roles as professionals from different disciplines can in the context of our overall community diminish the pressure put on what for convenience’s sake we might describe as ‘the child protection system’. Historically, work in the child protection sector – and that includes everyone taking this training –  is stressful. Professionals involved are having to deal with very distressing situations. They hear and deal with matters which for most people would be repulsive. In addition they  take decisions about whether there is a need for immediate action to prevent potential or actual abuse which is alleged to be taking place,  whether there is a need to set up an investigation into potential abuse, and whether their intervention is sufficient  or whether there is a need to involve other agencies. Some may say that those in the helping and educational professions are paid to take such decisions. These are no ordinary decisions. At one extreme the responsible person may be denigrated for unnecessarily interfering in the lives of  innocent people while at the other she will be seen as having contributed to the abuse she has decided after weighing up the evidence that there is insufficient cause for further action in a situation which turns out to have been an abusive one. Taking in this opprobrium is emotionally painful and wearing. It is not surprising that there  is evidence of a high level of professional burn out amongst those who are involved in this area of work. Exhausted staff in any place of work tend to make poor decisions and consequently the quality of their direct work with, students, clients or patients suffer.
In this training there will be an attempt to address these issues. In so doing we may help to create a community milieu which works to prevent child abuse and which is more understanding of those who work directly with these problems.
Most significantly of course this would make for a community which is safer for children and young people. This would be a community in which childhood is respected and where the protection of children would be second nature. Childhood would not be marginalised and neither would children’s safety. As things stand however once the child protection system is brought into action there is a high likelihood that abuse has already occurred.
What do we mean by child protection ?

Children need protection because adults – and indeed other children –  abuse them. They may be the victims of neglect as well as physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Child abuse occurs all over the world and to some extent in all cultures and  all communities. Though child abuse seems to our rational minds to be outrageous and preventable, national governments have found it increasingly necessary to create legislation and devise  systems for the purpose of  protecting children.
It seems axiomatic that if the adults responsible for the nurture, health and education were doing things right there would be no need for the notion ‘child protection’. Children would be safe. Yet children are vulnerable and become victims because adults  abuse them.

It has been argued that the concept of a state sanctioned child welfare system dates back to 360 BC  when  Plato  theorised that the interests of the child could best be served by removing children from the care of their parents and placing them into state custody. In more modern times this is an idea which has been put into practice. Children who have been assessed as  being abused or being vulnerable to abuse and neglect in their own home setting are removed and placed in a foster family home or in a children’s home. In this country other less intrusive preventive services have been introduced by the new children’s centres, family centres, health services and school based initiatives and these all play a role in preventing the abuse of children and in trying to protect them from further abuse.
These initiatives form a part of an overall set of statutory, voluntary and private services provided to protect children and to encourage family unity and stability. This provision also includes the investigation of alleged child abuse.
Most children who come to the attention of social workers do so because there is a fear that they are believed to be victims of  one or a combination of  different kinds of suffering which are often described collectively as child abuse. (These are described in the next section). The child protection system is the political and professional response to deal with these abuses.
Categories of Child Abuse and its Symptoms

What follows is representative of the categories and symptoms of child abuse which are usually provided to social workers, teachers, child care workers and to other professional helping disciplines in their introductory child protection training.

  •  Neglect (including the failure to take adequate measures to protect a child from harm)

Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs and is likely to result in the serious impairment of a child’s health or development. It may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing or appropriate medical treatment. It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.
Child neglect is a serious condition that can result in delayed physical and emotional development. Coupled with physical abuse it can have fatal consequences. Every child’s development is highly sensitive to both physical and psychological stress.
The judgement of the degree of neglect we may find tolerable accords with social values, but at the point where insufficient care or protection leads to actual or potential impairment of physical and psychological development and wellbeing, then child abuse can be said to have occurred.

Physical Neglect
This type of neglect may be the consequence of lack of concern and/or poverty. Children who receive an inadequate diet, lack clean hygienic conditions and severe infestations are suffering physical neglect. Children allowed to live in dangerous conditions or who are left to harm themselves must also be included in this.
Child supervision is an issue which is subject to cultural and wide sub-cultural variability. Factors include the age of the child and his or her maturity as well as the length of time the carer is away. A further consideration is often the age and maturity of the temporary carer.

Medical Neglect
Medical neglect is defined a the failure on the part of the parent or carer to take reasonable steps to prevent injury or disease and/or failure to seek medical/psychological treatment or advice within a reasonable length of time when it is clear that medical intervention is necessary. Failure to identify injury, disease or to follow essential medical advice may also be neglectful.

Non-organic ‘Failure to Thrive
Non-organic Failure to Thrive is a phrase applied to infants or children who fail to develop adequately, drop away from their expected growth centile or grow erratically for reasons that have no medical or organic basis.
A parent can fail to give a child adequate nourishment for a variety of reasons: inexperience of child care, lack of knowledge of how to feed, lack of care or feelings of hostility. Alternatively, some infants are difficult to feed and there may be a more complex psychological problem related to a child’s hostile or stressful environment such as attachment difficulties.
Explanations related to the small stature of parents should always be carefully scrutinised. Many children otherwise regarded as simply small have been observed to have rapidly gained weight following an admission to a hospital or to care.
Children undernourished in their early years can be disadvantaged for life as their brain growth may be affected. This, in turn, may influence all aspects of development and general health.

 

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill-treatment of a child such as to cause severe and continuing adverse effects on the child’s psychological development. It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. It may involve inappropriate age or developmental expectations being imposed on children. It could also be frequently causing a child to feel frightened or in danger which in turn can lead to the exploitation or corruption of children.

The sense of security that enables children to thrive and enjoy the outside world is obvious and easily recognisable. If this is withdrawn, a child’s fragile self esteem can be grossly undermined and this can lead to compulsive or disturbed behaviours, physical or psychological developmental impairment, or even suicide.
Emotional abuse may be difficult to quantify and have no physical signs. Diligence may be necessary to obtain sufficient evidence to protect the child before irreparable damage is done.
Emotional abuse may take the form of a basic failure to respond to a child’s fears and worries, or a deliberate form of harm involving frightening, bullying or scapegoating of a child.
A child, who despite receiving adequate material and physical care, may be the subject of emotional neglect or rejection, which in some ways is even more difficult for children to bear. Children who appear depressed or withdrawn, who have difficulty making friendships or simply present as passive and apathetic may be having to deal with enormous yet hidden hostility, denigration and rejection at home.
Children may also be deemed to be suffering emotional abuse if the demands placed upon them, such as looking after young children or adults, preclude their own need for developmental experience, for social activities and their right to play.
Behaviours which are emotionally abusive include the following:
• Fear inducing/terrorising
• Fear inducing/creation of insecurity
• Tormenting
• Humiliating
• Denigrating
• Corrupting
• Scapegoating
• Inappropriate roles/responsibilities
• Isolating/rejecting
• Ignoring/marginalising
The effects of such abuse are not always immediate and children even in the same household are likely to respond in very different ways. Many of the responses to emotional abuse are included in the section entitled “Symptoms of Sexual Abuse”.

 

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing 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 penetrative (eg, rape or buggery) or non-penetrative acts. Sexual abuse of children may include sexual touching, masturbation, intercourse, indecent exposure, use of children in or showing children pornographic films or pictures, encouraging or forcing children into prostitution or encouraging or forcing children to witness sexual acts. Children and young people of all ages can be victims of abuse.

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 inappropriate ways.

 

Responding to a child’s allegations of sexual abuse
Children in most instances make allegations of sexual abuse with great reluctance, fearful of what they may mean for themselves and for those they are making the allegations about. A child’s verbal allegations should always be treated with the greatest respect. Children are entitled to be listened to and to have their allegations treated seriously. Although there can be occasions when children invent allegations, as a result of adult pressures or for a variety of other reasons, research suggests that such fabricated allegations are rare and that children are, in fact, more likely to claim they are not being assaulted when they are than vice versa.
Once concerns are reported it is important that the indicators are weighed in terms of significance and in the context of the child’s life, before the assumption is made that the child is or has been sexually assaulted. Some indicators take on greater or lesser weight depending on the child’s age. It is essential you do not question the child but record carefully what is said and contact Social Services. Do not discuss the matter with a suspected abuser.
Less than half of victims of sexual abuse will present any forensic or medical evidence or any sign of neglect or physical abuse. Nevertheless, many commonly exhibit behavioural or emotional symptoms which will give some clue to their private suffering and confusion.
It is important to note that these symptoms are not specific to sexually abused children and can have a number of causes.
Symptoms of Sexual Abuse

These effects present singly or in clusters of behaviours, depending on each child’s environment and specific situation.

For the pre-school child, the effects may show in:
• Sexually explicit play and behaviour;
• Wetting and soiling;
• Delayed language and development;
• Eating and sleeping problems;
• Dysfunctional attachment behaviour;
• Withdrawn or over-active states
• Aggressive behaviours (to self and others);
• Clinging behaviour and becoming mute.
In children between the ages of 6 and 12 years, the above effects may be recognisable with further elaborations:
• Poor learning and concentration;
• Heightened sexual behaviour and arousal;
• Truanting and self-neglecting;
• Depression and anxiety;
• Psychosomatic illnesses;
• Physical risk-taking;
• Poor social skills;,
• Moments of lacking control;
• Avoidance of men or women (depending on gender of abuser).
For the older child, the effects may include any of the above-mentioned patterns with further escalations:
• Sexually precocious behaviour and prostitution;
• Solvent/alcohol/drug abuse;
• Anorexia and bulimia;
• Self harming and suicide attempts;
• Changes in school performance;
• Isolation from peers;
• Sexual abuse of other children.
If a child is showing signs of emotional or behavioural stress, then the possibility of sexual abuse must be considered, particularly where there are sudden changes with no apparent explanation.

 

Self-destructive Behaviour

Many victims of sexual abuse will in some way act out their distress. Common amongst adolescent behaviour is self-mutilation, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and prostitution. Attempts at suicide are often the result of self-loathing and the inability to betray the abuser, who may be quite close.
Children have commonly been known to cut or burn themselves, have themselves tattooed and to make themselves ill.
They will seek the attention they desperately need by committing offences or by running away from home or absconding after getting themselves placed in care. Sexual abuse should always be considered as a possible explanation.

 

 Physical abuse

Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may be also caused when a parent or carer feigns the symptoms of or deliberately causes ill health to a child whom they are looking after.
Bruises
Falls and accidents often produce only a single bruise which is usually on a bony prominence. Even a child who falls downstairs can sometimes only sustain one or two bruises. Conversely, a fall may often produce bruises on several surfaces such as a knee, a forearm and hand. Children usually run and therefore fall forwards which can lead to bruises on the front of the body and marks on their forehead, knees, and shins as well as on their hands if they managed to break their fall.
Bruises are virtually universal in the mobile child. Bruising on the less mobile child should always be a cause of concern and bruising in a young baby or a child with severe learning or physical disability should be viewed with deep suspicion.
Children are commonly struck on the head, ears, cheeks, mouth, chest, upper arms, stomach, thighs and buttocks. Any bruising to the lips or gums, ears, genital or rectal area, neck or buttocks should arouse particular suspicion and indicate the need for an expert paediatric opinion as such bruising is rarely caused accidentally.
To produce finger marks, bruising to the pinnae of the ears, outline marks (such as from a belt or strap), or grasp marks requires considerable force. Suspected bruising may turn out to be a symptom of a bleeding disorder, a birthmark, skin pigmentation or a skin disease but these distinctions are for medical practitioners to make.
Black Eyes
Bruises around and to the eyes are not uncommon and can be accidental if children have had an injury to the forehead or nose. In this instance, the bruising will be underneath the eyes. However bruising to the upper lids of the eyes and around the orbital ridge and surrounding tissue will need a medical opinion.
Easy Bruising
Parents often claim their child ‘bruises easily’. In most cases this claim is incorrect and should be investigated by blood tests.

Burns and Scalds (Thermal Injury)
Scalds and burns are common accidents in children. A child who presents with any burn should be comprehensively medically examined.                                                                                                                                         It can be difficult to distinguish between accidental and inflicted burns but, generally, non-accidental burns are characterised by their regular outlines and their location. (eg, “glove” and/or “stocking” injuries to the extremities) whereas a child who pulls a saucepan of boiling water over themself suffers diffuse scalds to the facial and chest area. Burns to the buttocks and groin are rarely accidental.
Accidental burns or scalds should always lead to questioning the amount of supervision and protection offered to the child and should raise the issue of child neglect.
A common burning object, readily to hand at moments of stress or anger, is the cigarette. Although children can sustain very superficial burns by accident if parents smoke, brushing against the tip does not cause the characteristic circular punched out area of skin loss. Multiple cigarette burns are more readily diagnosed as non-accidental injury than single burns that heal rapidly without the need for any medical attention. However, such burns usually produce very typical scars. (NB-Impetigo/skin infection can be confused with cigarettes burns).
Friction burns are relatively common when children suffer playground accidents but these are usually associated with contact areas such as buttocks, stomach or chest and back.
Bites and Scratches
Bites inflicted by peers or siblings are common in childhood. Children can also suffer bites and scratches from pets.
Human bite marks are usually distinctive as a circle of two discontinuous semi-circles corresponding to the upper and lower teeth. There is usually no central bruising although this area may be swollen. ‘Love bites’ to a child may be signs of a sexual abuse. Bite marks may be associated with serious or sadistic abuse and are of forensic importance. An expert should always examine them.
The random movements of newborn infants frequently cause scratch marks, especially on the face. However, extensive and deep scratches are unlikely to be self-inflicted.
Lesions and Cuts
A torn frenulum (the web of skin joining the upper gum and the upper lip) is usually the result of a shearing force that requires specialist interpretation and investigation. Restraining children by applying bands and ropes to wrists and ankles can lead to straight-edged lesions, which should arouse suspicion. Children can be beaten with a variety of instruments and repeated blows may result in a series of marks.

 

Children whose Illness is Fabricated or Induced by Carers

Child welfare concerns may arise when:
• reported symptoms and signs found on examination are not explained by any medical condition from which the child may be suffering, or
• physical examination and results of investigations do not explain reported symptoms and signs found on examination, or
• there is an inexplicably poor response to prescribed medication and other treatment, or
• new symptoms are reported on resolution of previous ones, or
• reported symptoms and found signs are not observed independently of the carer, or
• the child’s normal, daily life activities are being curtailed beyond that which might be expected for any known medical disorder from which the child is known to suffer.
There may be a number of explanations for these circumstances and each requires careful consideration. The characteristic of fabricated or induced illness is that there is a lack of the usual symptoms or signs or, in circumstances of proven organic illness, lacks the usual response to proven effective treatments. It is this puzzling discrepancy which alerts the medical clinician to possible harm being suffered by the child.

The following list of behaviours exhibited by carers when fabricating or inducing illness in a child is not exhaustive but can include the following:
• Deliberately inducing symptoms in children by administering medication or other substances, or by means of suffocation
• Interfering with treatments by overdosing, not administering them or interfering with medical equipment such as infusion lines
• Obtaining specialist treatments or equipment for children who do not require them
• Exaggerating symptoms, causing professionals to undertake investigations and treatments which may be invasive, are unnecessary and therefore are harmful and possibly dangerous
• Claiming the child has symptoms which are unverifiable unless observed directly, such as pain, frequency of passing urine, vomiting or fits. These claims result in unnecessary investigations and treatments which may cause secondary physical problems
• Alleging psychological illness in a child.
Other Indicators of Physical Abuse
• Delay in seeking medical attention
• No explanation or inadequate explanation of injuries
• Child/parent/witness reports abuse
• Changing explanation of injuries
• Recurrent injuries – particularly if forming a pattern (eg, always on a particular day or in the care of the same person)
• Inadequate parental concern
• Multiple injuries that occurred at different dates
.

 

4. New child abuse issues

As technological developments accelerate and particularly internet communications, children and young people are increasingly exposed to potential child abuse – not only in the material they view – but also in the worrying potential for adults to attempt to engage with children and young people for abusive purposes.
Increasingly too children have become the victims of bullying from peers through email and through mobile ‘phone texting and voice mail messages.
Children and young people are often indirectly exposed to peer abuse as a consequence of the activities of the marketing industries who, in exploiting the financial potential in children and young people, promote the notion that if youngsters do not have the latest fashion or technology accessories that they become ‘uncool’.
Attempts have been made to counter these developments but it would seem  the only effective counter to them is the way children and young people are nurtured. Of course adolescents take risks – and many would argue that this is what the adolescent stage of life is all about –  but it is the adolescent who is supported by  parenting figures who he trusts to protect him who does not fall victim to this kind of abuse.

 

What legislative guidelines expect professionals with child protection responsibilities to do.

The national child care policy for England as it is represented in Every Child Matters  determines that those involved in the education, health and care of children should be mindful to ensure that children have positive life outcomes in five areas. These are prescribed as:
• Being healthy
• Staying safe
• Enjoying and achieving
• Making a positive contribution
• Achieving economic well-being
A child’s positive progress in these areas would seem to be predicated on the first two but particularly on ‘being safe’. Health does influence a child’s ability to flourish but children with chronic illnesses and with disabilities do flourish if they are kept safe and are given good enough parenting.
The youngsters that teachers, teaching assistants, social workers and health professionals with responsibilities for child protection are engaged with, all too often are not kept safe. It may be asking too much of these staff to be aware of all the potential child abuse cases in their respective institutional and organisational work settings. Everyone is involved in keeping children safe – not merely nominated staff.  Taking a school setting as an example of this, all teaching and teaching assistant staff need to be aware of the possibility of any student being vulnerable to abuse, or of being abused both at home, out in the neighbourhood or indeed within the school itself. The teacher nominated to deal with these matters –  the one to whom other staff refer their concerns – is the person who decides whether further action needs to be taken by informing other agencies. In my view this places too great a responsibility on one person. It would seem to be good practice if the teacher who makes their concerns for a student’s welfare known to the nominated teacher maintains a continued interest  and follows up and regularly review her concerns.
I would add to this that child protection should be part of an introductory curriculum for all children starting at a school so that he or she is  made aware of their right to be protected by the adults who have responsibility for them. I think it should be made quite clear to students that a teacher’s responsibility is to report any evidence – whether it has become evident from events outside as well as inside the school – which suggests that a student is potentially the victim of abuse.
I have said that this should include abuse that goes on inside a school, whether it be physical, emotional or sexual abuse as well as abuse by adults and peers outside of the school. I accept that the possibility of abuse perpetrated by colleagues can be an uncomfortable notion for teachers, teaching assistants, and other professional disciplines working in their respective work places but the denial of its existence has led in some educational and care settings to institutionalised abuse. All staff members should be made aware that if they are concerned about the treatment of a student by any other person that they are required to communicate the matter to the colleague who is nominated to deal with child protection no matter who that allegedly abusive person is.  I think it is important too that the member of staff who reports the matter assures herself that her concerns have been properly investigated.

During induction and throughout their period of employment I think all staff in the education services should regularly receive updated training on current local procedures. The introduction of  the Integrated Children’s Service should make inter-disciplinary training more feasible. Historically one of the main reasons for a failure to deal with child abuse crises and tragedies has been the failure of communication between professional disciplines.

 

What responsibilities do adults carry for failures in child protection ?

If for the moment we forget about the procedures and what we must and must not do to protect children and consider what lies behind them we find that what is really needed is the exercise of the kind of consideration and respect for children that any concerned parent would have.
To generalise this, perhaps the time has come to acknowledge that any failure to protect children is not principally one explained by an indifference to written down procedure but the failure of  well-intentioned and usually overworked adult professionals, (as well as members of the public) to communicate their fears to each other about the safety of  a child in their ken. It is also related to the reluctance of these people to insist and to check out that action is taken over these fears on the basis that they might be treading on someone else’s jurisdiction and so in a sense there is either an assumption that either it is a problem someone else will already be dealing with or that if no one else seems concerned about the matter then nothing can be seriously wrong.
This is a painful pill for us to stomach. We are often tempted not to take action because we fear that we will make things worse for the child. We assume that someone else will be dealing with it. We are fearful for ourselves. We imagine that nothing will be done about it anyway. All these responses speak of the mental exhaustion which daily exposure to these kinds of  issues can invoke. The Laming Report when referring to a failure  of overworked, overwrought and under-resourced professionals took the  matter of staff exhaustion on board when it pointed out that the managers of those who work directly with children should take more action and responsibility to ensure that their staff are supported and given the necessary time and space to deal with child protection issues effectively. The Laming Report was the first in a long line of such reports which did try to deal with this by holding managers to account for the breakdown in child protection procedures.
It may be time to acknowledge that there can be a part of ourselves which may in one way or another denies what is happening to some children for,  as caring human beings, we do not like to think that in our society, in our communities there are children  suffering from abuse at the hands of adults. There are aspects of abuse which are so alarming and painful to us and so complex that we can feel powerless in the face of them. We can be tempted to, and sometimes do hide them away in the depths of our collective mind.
So this training while being based on a background  of current  policy and procedure which specifically refers to the child protection provided to children and young people who are already identified as vulnerable, has given equal value to what we do in the wider community, in our welfare, health and education services to protect all children.   This encompasses what we do and don’t do in the learning environment to protect the children we educate by respecting them and helping them. This necessarily includes how we help them to develop healthy relationships and helps them respect the rights of others.

 

 

Appendix 1

The following are extracts from UK government websites related to child protection They refer only to England and Wales.

 

ICS, CAF and ContactPoint – an overview
Introduction

Every Child Matters  aims to integrate services for children from 0 to 19 with agencies working across professional boundaries to co-ordinate support around the needs of children and young people, using common processes and language to meet those needs in the best possible way, focusing on prevention and early intervention and providing better support to parents and families.
This article provides an overview of some of the key tools that support these integrated services and enable more effective use of information to improve well-being and to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people. It describes how the Integrated Children’s System (ICS), the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) and ContactPoint are separate systems which exist for different, specific purposes, but which are all intended to promote better outcomes for children, young people and their families. Although this article provides a brief description of these tools, it assumes a basic understanding of them and focuses on how they relate to each other.

 

ContactPoint 
ContactPoint will be the quick way to find out who else is working with the same child or young person, making it easier to deliver more coordinated support. This basic online directory will be available to authorised staff who need it to do their jobs. It is a key part of the Every Child Matters programme to improve outcomes for children.
ContactPoint will hold a small amount of core demographic data on every child in England (up to their 18th birthday) and contact details for their parents/carers and for practitioners providing services to the child (except for sensitive services, i.e. sexual health, mental health and substance abuse, where contact details are only held with consent and access to this information is tightly controlled). ContactPoint will not hold any case or assessment information.
Further information is available at http://www.ecm.gov.uk/contactpoint

 

The Common Assessment Framework (CAF) 

Assessing needs at an early stage and deciding on what action to take is where the CAF comes in. We want practitioners to be able to gather and record information about a child or young person with additional needs in a systematic, holistic yet simple, way so that they can begin to work out what the needs are and what should to be done to address them. CAF is designed to enable practitioners across all agencies, after training, to follow the same process and achieve more consistent assessments that can be shared and understood by other agencies.
Further Information is available at http://www.ecm.gov.uk/caf.
A single, national IT system to support CAF will be developed. eCAF will allow authorised practitioners to electronically create, store, and share a CAF securely, across agency and geographical borders where necessary. eCAF will only hold information about some children, with consent, and for a limited period of time.
The Integrated Children’s System 

When children are or may be children in need as defined by the Children Act 1989, including those who have or may have suffered neglect or abuse or are looked after, it is necessary to assess their needs using the Framework for Assessment of Children in Need and their families. This involves systematically collecting and recording information about the child and family. Where an in-depth assessment is necessary or children become looked after this involves significant amounts of information. This information should be gathered in such a way that it can be analysed for use in decision-making and presented in a number of ways for different purposes. The Integrated Children’s System is an applied
conceptual framework (based on the Assessment Framework domains and dimensions) and a practice tool for working with children in need and managing these detailed information requirements.
ICS supported by information technology is the core of the electronic social care record for children. The IT system is also known as ICS.
Further information is available at http://www.ecm.gov.uk/ics.

©  goodenoughcaring.com and Charles Sharpe

 

goodenoughcaring editor’s note

Other articles relating to issues raised in this piece include :

Council of Europe ‘one in five’ campaign to prevent child sexual violence in Europe  written by Kevin Lalor and Rosaleen Mcelvaney which can be found athttp://www.goodenoughcaring.com/Journal/Article151.htm

Two book Reviews : Kathy’s Real Story by Hermann Kelly and The Secret of Bryn Estyn by Richard Webster This review is written by Mark Smith and can be found athttp://www.goodenoughcaring.com/Journal/Article143.htm