Child Protection

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Eileen Munro

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  • Glossary of Key Terms

    ‘Achieving best evidence’ Guidance produced by the Crown Prosecution Service on how to prepare and support wit-nesses, including the specific concerns and provisions for children giving evidence in court

    Anti-discriminatory practice Recognising the power imbalances in our society and working towards redressing the balance, includes identifying and challenging discriminatory prejudices.

    Area Child Protection Committee Now replaced by the Local Safeguarding Children Board, the ACPC was the inter-agency body responsible for co-ordinating child protection services in a local area and developing local inter-agency policies and procedures.

    Assessment Framework Underpinning all the assessment forms in children's services, this is an ecological framework for organising information about a child's health and development in three domains: the child's developmental needs, parenting capacity, and family and environmental factors.

    ‘At risk’ Traditionally used to refer to a child at risk of abuse but now also used to refer to children at risk of social exclusion or at risk of failing to fulfil their potential

    Attachment theory Based on the work of the psychoanalyst John Bowlby, this is a theory of personality devel-opment in which the nature of infants' relationships with their caregivers are considered to shape their future emotional and social competence.

    Beckford, Jasmine The 4-year-old girl whose death in 1984 led to an influential inquiry, chaired by Louis Blom-Cooper, that stressed the importance of pri-oritising the safety and welfare of the child over that of the parents

    CAMHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, a multi-disciplinary team that offers assessment, treatment and support for mental health prob-lems and disorders to children and their families.

    Care order Made by a court, after assessing an application by a local authority, that authorises the removal of a child from parental care.

    Child Anyone who has not yet reached their eighteenth birthday.

    ‘Child in need’ Defined in the Children Act 1989 as a child who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development without appropriate provision of services from a local authority. The category includes children who are disabled.

    Child protection conference A meeting of the relevant professionals plus family members (including the child if appropriate) where information is shared to form an assessment of whether the child is at risk of significant harm and to make plans about how to deal with any risk.

    Child protection plan If the decision is made at a child protection con-ference to put a child's name on the register then a child protection plan is drawn up, setting out what needs to be done and by whom to protect the child's safety and welfare.

    Child protection procedures See Working Together to Safeguard Children.

    Child protection register Provides a record of every child in an area for whom there are unresolved child protection concerns and who is currently the subject of an inter-agency child protection plan. The decision to place a child's name on the register is usually made at a child protection conference.

    Children's Commissioner Each country in the UK appoints a Children's Commissioner to ensure that the views and interests of children are heard and acted upon at a national level. Their legal authority varies slightly between the countries.

    Children's Trust The Children Act 2004 established Children's Trusts as the required organisational structure to bring together all services for children and young people in an area. As a key element in the drive to develop preventive services, Children's Trusts will seek to change the behaviour of those who work every day with children and families, so that those children and families experience more integrated and responsive services, where specialist support is embedded in and accessed through universal services.

    Climbie, Victoria Her death in 2000 led to the first major inquiry for some years. Chaired by Lord Laming, the findings of the inquiry on poor accountability and co-ordination of agencies fed into the government's change agenda for children's services.

    Colwell, Maria The subject of the first major child abuse inquiry in 1974. The findings of that inquiry led to the establishment of the basic framework of the child protection services that we have today.

    Common Assessment Framework A multi-agency framework for assessment, to facilitate good identification of children's needs and referral to the appropriate agencies. It should also promote the development of a common language and improve the sharing of information between agencies. It is being trialled in 12 areas during 2005/6 and should be adopted throughout England by the end of 2008.

    Common Core of Skills and Knowledge A curriculum setting out the basic skills and knowledge needed by people (including volun-teers) whose work brings them into regular contact with children, young people and families. It will help multi-disciplinary teams to work together more effectively in the interests of the child.

    Core assessment In-depth assessment which addresses the central or most important aspects of the needs of a child and the capacity of his or her parents or caregivers to respond appropriately to these needs within the wider family and community context. A core assessment should be com-pleted within 35 working days of the completion of the initial assessment, or the decision being made to initiate section 47 inquiries, or new information received on an open case indicating that a core assessment should be done. In the circumstances in which the core assessment process must address child protection issues, it must include section 47 inquiries.

    Domestic violence Violence between partners, mainly — but by no means always — male violence to women. It includes both physical and psychological abuse and can have a corrosive impact on the victim's self-esteem, making it hard for him/her to deal with it constructively.

    Ecology The study of the interrelationships between organisms and their environments. The Assessment Framework adopts an ecological approach to understanding a child's health and development.

    Emergency Protection Order Made by a court when there is a need for urgent action to protect a child.

    Every Child Matters The name of the 2003 Green Paper setting out the government's vision for children and now also commonly used to refer to the ensuing policy changes, in which the development of early recognition and response to problems is a key goal in helping all children to fulfil their potential.

    Fabricated or Induced Illness Where a parent makes up or causes symptoms in a child in order to gain medical attention.

    Family Group Conference A meeting of family members with professionals where the family is the primary planning group in deciding how to meet the child's needs.

    Genogram A diagrammatic way of describing the structure of a family, illustrating the different relationships between members.

    Information Sharing Index A database containing basic details of all children in England (e.g. name, address, age), plus the name and contact details of agencies to whom they are known. Practitioners can enter an ‘indication’ to show that they have information to share, have carried out an assessment, or are taking action.

    Initial assessment A brief assessment of each child referred to local authority children's social care where it is necessary to determine whether the child is in need, the nature of the services required, and whether a further, more detailed, core assessment should be done.

    Integrated Children's System An electronic case-management system for social care that is being implemented from 2006 onwards.

    LAC system Looked After Children forms to use with children who are looked after by the local authority to help assess, plan and monitor their development. They were developed in response to the recognition of the poor outcomes so many looked after children had.

    Lead professional The person who takes the lead in coordinating the contribution of various agencies to meet the needs of a child. Provides a single point of contact for the child and family.

    Local Safeguarding Children Boards Established in the Children Act 2004, they replace the Area Child Protection Committee with statutory bodies, with representatives of the key agencies in children's services, such as social care, health, education, police. The objective of LSCBs is to co-ordinate, and to ensure the effectiveness of, their member agencies in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.

    ‘Looked after child’ A child in the care of the local authority.

    Memorandum of Good Practice Now replaced by the guidance ‘Achieving Best Evidence’ (2001), the memorandum provided guidance on conducting video interviews with children, including how to confine their answers to comply with the law of evidence.

    Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) A national framework for the assessment and management of risk posed by serious and violent offenders.

    ‘No order’ principle The principle in the Children Act 1989 that the court should only make an order when essential.

    Parenting capacity One of the three dimensions of a child's health and development assessed in the Assessment Framework.

    Partnership with parents The principle in the Children Act 1989 that, where possible, professionals should work in partnership with parents to help them bring up their children, using more coercive methods as little as possible.

    Police protection power Under Section 46 of the Children Act 1989, a police officer who has reasonable cause to believe that a child is at risk of significant harm can remove the child, or ensure the child cannot be removed from a safe place such as a hospital.

    Rights of children See United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    Risk assessment Estimating the likelihood of adverse outcomes for a child.

    Risk management Deciding what to do to minimise the assessed risk.

    Safeguarding children The broad aim of children's services not only to protect from harm but to promote the welfare of all children so that they are helped to fulfil their potential.

    Section 17 The section of the Children Act 1989 that sets out local authorities' duty to help children in need.

    Section 47 The section of the Children Act 1989 that gives local authorities the statutory duty to investigate wherever it has reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.

    Serious case review Carried out by the Local Safeguarding Children Board when a child dies, and abuse or neglect is known or suspected to be a factor in the death. It should consider the involvement of the child and family with local agencies and con-duct a review if there is cause for concern about the work done to establish whether there are lessons to be learned.

    Significant harm A key concept in the Children Act 1989 that acts as the threshold for a Section 47 inquiry and for considering the use of coercive measures if necessary.

    Strategy discussion Discussion held between relevant professionals about a referral to decide whether a Section 47 inquiry needs to be done.

    Supervision order An order made by a court with the same threshold criteria as a care order but conferring the duty on the supervisor to ‘advise, assist and befriend’ the supervised child.

    Trafficking children Crimes including the exploitation of children through force, coercion, threat and the use of deception. The exploitation may be sexual or involve labour exploitation.

    United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Built on varied legal systems and cultural traditions, the CRC is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations. These basic standards — also called human rights — set minimum entitlements and freedoms that should be respected by governments. See http://www.unicef.org/crc/ for more details.

    Working Together to Safeguard Children Guidance produced by government on how agencies should work together to protect children and promote their welfare. It is the key document in child protection services and its contents should be well known by all practitioners.

    Scottish Legal Framework

    Scotland has its own policy and legislation on social care and a system of Children's Hearings for making legal decisions about children. The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 is the key piece of legislation. Centred on the needs of children and their families, it defines both parental responsibilities and rights in relation to children. It sets out the duties and powers available to public authorities to support children and their families and to intervene when the child's welfare requires it. It embodies key principles which are consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Fundamentally, the act is founded on the principles that:

    • Each child has a right to be treated as an individual.
    • Each child who can form a view on matters affecting him or her has the right to express those views if he or she so wishes.
    • Parents should normally be responsible for the upbringing of their children and should share that responsibility.
    • Each child has the right to protection from all forms of abuse, neglect or exploitation.
    • In decisions relating to protection of a child every effort should be made to keep the child in the family home.
    • Any intervention by a public authority in the life of a child should be properly justified and should be supported by services from all relevant agencies working in collaboration.

    The Act is divided into four main parts:

    • Part I deals with the responsibilities and rights of parents and guardians towards children and decisions about family matters.
    • Part II deals with the promotion of children's welfare by public authorities such as local authorities, and the operation of the Children's Hearings System.
    • Part III makes amendments to the law on adoption of children.
    • Part IV makes general and supplemental provision in relation to the Act.

    Part I of the Children (Scotland) Act introduces a statement of parental responsibilities and rights, and outlines the court orders which may be made when parents separate and divorce.

    Parental Responsibilities

    Section 1 of the Act provides that a child's parents have four main responsibilities toward the child. These are:

    • To safeguard and promote the child's health, development and welfare until the child reaches the age of 16.
    • To provide direction until the child reaches 16 and to provide guidance until the child reaches 18.
    • To maintain regular contact with the child until he or she is 16.
    • To act as legal representative until the child is 16.

    Where there is a breach of these responsibilities a child, or their representative, will be entitled to sue. Parents, however, must comply with these responsibilities only in so far as it is ‘practicable’ to do so and in the ‘interests of the child’.

    Parental Rights

    Section 2 of the Act provides parents four main rights in order to allow them to fulfil these responsibilities. These are as follows:

    • To regulate the under-16 child's residence.
    • To direct and guide the child's upbringing.
    • To maintain contact.
    • To act as legal representative.

    Part II of the Act introduces significant changes in provisions for the protection of children at risk. The Act introduces three new court orders designed to protect children from harm or the risk of harm.

    Child Protection Order

    The Child Protection Order replaces the existing provisions governing the removal of children from home where they are in danger. The Act allows anyone to apply to a sheriff for a Child Protection Order, and the sheriff may make such an order if he is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child

    • is suffering significant harm because of ill-treatment or neglect;
    • will suffer such harm if he or she is not removed to, or allowed to remain in, a place of safety.

    The Child Protection Order is focused firmly on the individual needs of the child. Subject to any conditions imposed by the sheriff, it may

    • require any person in a position to do so to produce the child;
    • authorise the child's removal to a place of safety; or
    • authorise the prevention of the child's removal where he is already in a place of safety.

    Parents and the child will have an early opportunity to have the order set aside or varied by the Exclusion Order.

    The Exclusion Order is an innovative measure, designed to reduce disruption and distress to children who may already have suffered physical or mental abuse. It can be obtained from the sheriff on broadly the same criteria as for a Child Protection Order. If granted, the order would require the person to whom the harm (or potential harm) is attributed to leave the family home or not to visit it, if he lives elsewhere. This is an alternative to removing the child from the security of his or her home under a Child Protection Order. Exclusion may take place at once but, as in the case of a Child Protection Order, provision is made for early review of the order by a sheriff.

    Child Assessment Order

    If there is good reason to suspect that a child may be suffering harm and parents refuse to allow the child to be seen in order to resolve those suspicions, a sheriff can make a Child Assessment Order, which gives the local authority a legal right to see and assess the child, or arrange for the child to be assessed by other professionals, such as a doctor or psychiatrist. The order may last for up to seven days and will not normally require the child's removal from his or her family home unless there is clear evidence that this is necessary. Such an application has to be determined within three working days.

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