CHILD PROTECTION AND WELFARE POLICY
Guidelines for all staff
All staff employed by the Director General are responsible for the care, safety and protection of children. This responsibility extends to the identification and timely response to concerns regarding the possible sexual, physical, psychological and emotional abuse or neglect of a child
This document explains the actions to be taken by staff to protect children in circumstances where abuse is suspected or when allegations of child abuse are made against staff, children or other people in the community.
All staff have an important role in the identification and reporting of child abuse and the provision of support and assistance to children who have been abused.
International Academic School recognizes that every student has the right to protection from abuse and exploitation and the right to have enquiries made to safeguard his or her welfare. The school places great importance on students’ health, safety and welfare and aims to provide a caring, supportive and safe environment in which all our students can learn and develop to their full potential.
The purpose of the following procedure on student protection is to safeguard our children by ensuring that all employees (teachers, administrators and other staff) have clear guidance on the action which is required where abuse or neglect of a child is suspected. The overriding concern of all caring adults must be the care, safety and welfare of the child: the welfare of each child is our most important consideration. The problem of child abuse will not be ignored by anyone who works in our school.
Key principles of best practice in child protection and welfare
The key principles that should inform best practice in child protection and welfare are:
- The welfare of children is of paramount importance.
- Early intervention and support should be available to promote the welfare of children and families, particularly where they are vulnerable or at risk of not receiving adequate care or protection. Family support should form the basis of early intervention and preventative interventions.
- A proper balance must be struck between protecting children and respecting the rights and needs of parents/guardians and families. Where there is conflict, the child’s welfare must come first.
- Children have a right to be heard, listened to and taken seriously. Taking account of their age and understanding, they should be consulted and involved in all matters and decisions that may affect their lives. Where there are concerns about a child’s welfare, there should be opportunities provided for their views to be heard independently of their parents/ guardians.
- Parents/ guardians have a right to respect and should be consulted and involved in matters that concern their family.
- Factors such as the child’s family circumstances, gender, age, stage of development, religion, culture and race should be considered when taking protective action. Intervention should not deal with the child in isolation; the child’s circumstances must be understood within a family context.
- The criminal dimension of any action must not be ignored.
- The prevention, detection and treatment of child abuse or neglect requires a coordinated multidisciplinary approach, effective management, clarity of responsibility and training of personnel in organizations working with children.
Child Protection Plan
A Child Protection Plan is an interagency plan that sets out what changes need to happen to make sure that the child or young person is safe and that their needs are met. Agreed at a Child Protection Conference, the aim of the plan is to reduce or remove the identified risks so that a decision can be made to cease the Child Protection Plan. It will also list the support and help to be given to the family by the different agencies and what the family is expected to do to make the changes happen.
Child Protection Review Conference
Taking place at regular agreed intervals (but no later than 6 months after the initial Child Protection Conference), the primary purpose of the Review Conference is to determine whether the child remains at continuing risk of significant harm and whether the child continues to require safeguarding through a Child Protection Plan.
Child welfare concern
A problem experienced directly by a child, or by the family of a child, that is seen to impact negatively on the child’s health, development and welfare, and that warrants assessment and support.
Designated Liaison Person
Every organization, both public and private, that is providing services for children or that is in regular direct contact with children should identify designated liaison person to act as a liaison with outside agencies and resource person to any staff member or volunteer who has child protection concerns.
Definitions of the four categories of child abuse
Child abuse can be categorized into four different types: emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect. A child may be subjected to one or more forms of abuse at any given time.
Definition of ‘emotional abuse’
Emotional abuse is normally to be found in the relationship between apparent/career and a child rather than in a specific event or pattern of events. It occurs when a child’s developmental need for affection, approval, consistency and security are not met. Unless other forms of abuse are present, it is rarely manifested in terms of physical signs or symptoms. Emotional abuse can be manifested in terms of the child’s behavioral, cognitive, affective or physical functioning. Examples of these include insecure attachment, unhappiness, low self-esteem, educational and developmental underachievement, and oppositional behavior. The threshold of significant harm is reached when abusive interactions dominate and become typical of the relationship between the child and the parent/ guardians.
Definition of ‘sexual abuse’
Sexual abuse occurs when a child is used by another person for his or her gratification or sexual arousal, or for that of others. It should be noted that the definition of child sexual abuse presented in this section is not a legal definition and is not intended to be a description of the criminal offence of sexual assault.
Definition of ‘physical abuse’
Physical abuse of a child is that which results in actual or potential physical harm from an interaction, or lack of interaction, which is reasonably within the control of a parent or person in a position of responsibility, power or trust. There may be single or repeated incidents. There may be Fabricated/Induced Illness.
Indicators of non-accidental injury • A delay in seeking help (or none sought).
- The story of the ‘accident’ is vague and may vary with repeated telling.
- The account is not compatible with the injury observed.
- The parents’ response is abnormal – normal parents are full of creative anxiety for their child; abusive parents tend to be more preoccupied with their own problems, such as how soon they can return home.
- The parents’ behavior gives rise for concern – for example, they become hostile, rebut accusations that have not been made and avoid seeing the consultant.
- The child’s appearance and his/her interaction with parents are abnormal – sad, withdrawn or frightened. Full-blown ‘frozen watchfulness’ is a late stage; its absence does not exclude on-accidental injury.
- The child may say something. Where possible, always interview the child (if old enough) in privacy.
Definition of ‘neglect’
Neglect can be defined in terms of an omission, where the child suffers significant harm or impairment of development by being deprived of food, clothing, warmth, hygiene, intellectual stimulation, supervision and safety, attachment to and affection from adults, and/or medical care.
Neglect generally becomes apparent in different ways over a period of time rather than at one specific point. For example, a child who suffers a series of minor injuries may not be having his or her needs met in terms of necessary supervision and safety. A child whose height or weight is significantly below average may be being deprived of adequate nutrition. A child who consistently misses school may be being deprived of intellectual stimulation.
Instances of neglect
Instances of neglect can be measured under the following:
- Mild neglect might necessitate school based intervention
- Moderate neglect occurs when less intrusive measures, such as school based interventions, have failed or some moderate harm to the child has occurred. For moderate neglect, the correct UAE service may be involved in working in partnership with school support.
- Severe neglect occurs when severe or long-term harm has been done to the child (e.g. a child with asthma who has not received appropriate medications over a long period of time and is frequently admitted to hospital). In these cases, reports should be made to the correct authorities and an investigation may be undertaken, which may involve legal proceedings.
- Chronic neglect can be defined as ‘patterns of the same acts or omissions that extend over time or recur over time’. An example of chronic neglect would be parents who do not provide for the basic needs of their children on an ongoing basis. Because some behaviors are considered as neglect only if they occur on a frequent basis, it is important to look at the history behavior rather than focusing on one particular incident.
Types of neglect
A distinction can be made between ‘willful’ neglect and ‘circumstantial ‘neglect. ‘Willful’ neglect would generally incorporate a direct and deliberate deprivation by a parent/ guardians of a child’s most basic needs, e.g. withdrawal of food, shelter, warmth, clothing, contact with others. ‘Circumstantial’ neglect more often may be due to stress/inability to cope by parents or guardians.
Regardless of whether a concern is about circumstantial or willful neglect, there is a need for a response where there are concerns that a child is experiencing neglect. While neglect may be harder to define or to detect than other forms of child abuse, there are common categories of neglect, including:
- physical neglect;
- medical neglect;
- inadequate supervision;
- emotional neglect,
- educational neglect;
The following sections give detailed information on each of these types of neglect.
Physical neglect is one of the most widely recognized forms. It includes:
- Abandonment – the desertion of a child without arranging for his or her reasonable care or supervision. Usually, a child is considered abandoned when not picked up within 2 days.
- Expulsion – the blatant refusal by a parent/caregiver to allow a child access to this/her home on a permanent basis without adequately arranging for his or her care by others or the refusal to accept custody of a returned runaway.
- Nutritional neglect – when a child is undernourished or is repeatedly hungry for long periods of time, which can sometimes be evidenced by poor growth.
- Clothing neglect – when a child lacks appropriate clothing.
- Other physical neglect – includes inadequate hygiene and forms of disregard for the child’s safety and welfare (e.g. leaving a young child in a car unattended).
Medical neglect encompasses a parent or guardian’s denial of or delay in seeking needed healthcare for a child as described below:
- Denial of healthcare – the failure to provide or to allow needed care as recommended by a competent healthcare professional for a physical injury, illness, medical condition or impairment.
- Delay in healthcare – the failure to seek timely and appropriate medical care for a serious health problem that any reasonable person would have recognized as needing professional medical attention.
- Examples of a delay in healthcare include not getting appropriate preventive medical or dental care for a child, not obtaining care for a sick child or not following medical recommendations.
Inadequate supervision encompasses a number of behaviors, including a lack of appropriate supervision. There is no defined amount of time children at different ages can be left unsupervised and the guidelines for these ages and times vary. In addition, all children are different, so the amount of supervision needed may vary by the child’s age, development or situation. It is important to evaluate the maturity of the child, the accessibility of other adults, the duration and frequency of unsupervised time, and the neighborhood or environment when determining if it is acceptable to leave a child unsupervised.
Typically, emotional neglect is more difficult to assess than other types of neglect, but it is the general opinion that it can have more severe and long-lasting effects than physical neglect. It often occurs with other forms of neglect or abuse, which may be easier to identify, and includes:
- Inadequate nurturing or affection – the persistent, marked inattention to the child’s needs for affection, emotional support or attention.
- Exposure to chronic and/or extreme domestic violence.
- Other permitted maladaptive behavior – the encouragement or permission of a maladaptive behavior (e.g. chronic delinquency, assault) under circumstances where the parent or caregiver has reason to be aware of the existence and seriousness of the problem but does not intervene.
- Isolation – denying a child the ability to interact or to communicate with peers or adults outside or inside the home.
Parents and schools are responsible for meeting certain requirements regarding the education of children. Types of educational neglect include:
- Permitted, chronic truancy – permitting habitual absenteeism from school averaging at least 5 days a month if the parent or guardian is informed of the problem and does not attempt to intervene.
Indicators of neglect in older children
Neglected children, even when older, may display a variety of emotional, psycho-social and behavioral problems, which may vary depending on the age of the child. Some of these include:
- displaying an inability to control emotions or impulses, usually characterized by frequent outbursts;
- being quiet and submissive;
- having difficulty learning in school and getting along with siblings or classmates;
- experiencing unusual eating or sleeping behaviors;
- attempting to provoke fights;
- acting socially or emotionally inappropriate for their age;
- being unresponsive to affection;
- displaying apathy;
- being less flexible, persistent and enthusiastic than non-neglected children;
- demonstrating helplessness under stress;
- having fewer interactions with peers than non-neglected children;
- displaying poor coping skills;
- acting highly dependent;
- acting lethargic and lackluster;
- displaying self-abusive behavior;
- exhibiting panic or dissociative disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder;
- suffering from depression, anxiety or low self-esteem;
- exhibiting juvenile delinquent behavior or engaging in adult criminal activities;
- having low academic achievement;
Roles and Responsibilities in identifying and responding to child protection and welfare concerns
This section is for all professionals and volunteers whose work brings them into direct or indirect contact with children and their families. It aims to provide advice and guidance on what to do if you are worried about a child, your roles and responsibilities, how to refer your concerns and your involvement after you have made a referral to the appropriate Services, as well as suggested guidelines in responding to a child who discloses abuse.
The UAE has specific statutory responsibilities regarding the protection and welfare of children. As an employee of the school, irrespective of the position you hold, you have a share in this responsibility.
Designated Persons within school
International Academic School has a designated person within the school with responsibility for coordinating child protection services.
These designated persons are responsible for:
- receiving all notifications of child abuse;
- taking decisions relating to the holding of child protection conferences;
- overseeing staff training programs;
What constitutes reasonable grounds for a child protection or welfare concern?
- An injury or behavior that is consistent both with abuse and an innocent explanation, but where there are corroborative indicators supporting the concern that it may be a case of abuse.
- Consistent indication over a period of time that a child is suffering from emotional or physical neglect.
- Admission or indication by someone of an alleged abuse.
- A specific indication from a child that he or she was abused.
- An account from a person who saw the child being abused.
- Evidence (e.g. injury or behavior) that is consistent with abuse and unlikely to have been caused in any other way.
What to do if reasonable grounds for concern exist
Examine the information that has been reported to you and asking open-ended, nonleading questions, if necessary, to give further clarity. It is recommended that a referral to the appropriate Services should always be made in the following circumstances:
- Any concern about a child at risk of sexual abuse;
- Physical injury caused by assault or neglect which may or may not require medical attention;
- Incidents of physical abuse that alone are unlikely to constitute significant harm, but taken into consideration with other factors may do so;
- Children who suffer from persistent neglect;
- An abandoned child;
- Children left home alone;
- Suspicion of fabricated or induced illness;
PLEASE NOTE: The above are examples of circumstances that may occur. There are other circumstances under which a referral should be considered. If you are in any doubt, discuss your concern with your Principal, Vice Principal and/or Social Counsellor.
Questions that may help staff when they are concerned about a child’s welfare
- Is the child behaving normally for his or her age and stage of development?
- Does the child present a change in behavior?
- For how long has this behavior been observed?
- How often does it occur? Where?
- Has something happened that could explain the child’s behavior?
- Is the child showing signs of distress? If so, describe (e.g. behavioral, emotional, physical signs).
- Does the behavior happen everywhere or just in the school or childcare setting?
- Is the child suffering?
- Does the behavior restrict the child socially?
- Does the behavior interfere with the child’s development?
- What effect, if any, does it have on others (e.g. other children)?
- What are the child’s parents(s) views, if known?
Responding to a child who discloses abuse – suggested guidelines
Remember, a child may disclose abuse to you as a trusted adult at any time during your work with them. It is important that you are aware and prepared for this.
- Be as calm and natural as possible.
- Remember that you have been approached because you are trusted and possibly liked. Do not panic.
- Be aware that disclosures can be very difficult for the child.
- Remember, the child may initially be testing your reactions and may only fully open up over a period of time.
- Listen to what the child has to say. Give them the time and opportunity to tell as much as they are able and wish to.
- Do not pressurize the child. Allow him or her to disclose at their own pace and in their own language.
- Conceal any signs of disgust, anger or disbelief.
- Accept what the child has to say – false disclosures are very rare.
- It is important to differentiate between the person who carried out the abuse and the act of abuse itself. The child quite possibly may love or strongly like the alleged abuser while also disliking what was done totem. It is important therefore to avoid expressing any judgment on, orange towards, the alleged perpetrator while talking with the child.
- It may be necessary to reassure the child that your feelings towards him or her have not been affected in a negative way as a result of what they have disclosed.
When asking questions
- Questions should be supportive and for the purpose of clarification only.
- Avoid leading questions, such as asking whether a specific personcarried out the abuse. Also, avoid asking about intimate details orsuggesting that something else may have happened other than whatyou have been told. Such questions and suggestions could complicate an official investigation.
Confidentiality – Do not promise to keep secrets
At the earliest opportunity, tell the child that:
- You acknowledge that they have come to you because they trust you.
- You will be sharing this information only with people who understand this area and who can help. There are secrets, which are not helpful and should not be kept because they make matters worse. Such secrets hide things that need to be known if people are to be helped and protected from further ongoing hurt. By refusing to make a commitment to secrecy to the child, you do run the risk that they may not tell you everything (or, indeed, anything) there and then. However, it is better to do this than to tell a lie and ruin the child’s confidence in yet another adult. By being honest, it is more likely that the child will return to you at another time.
Think before you promise anything – Do not make promises you cannot keep
At the earliest possible opportunity:
- Record in writing, in factual manner, what the child has said, including, as far as possible, the exact words used by the child.
- Inform your supervisor/manager immediately and agree measures to protect the child, i.e. report the matter.
- Maintain appropriate confidentiality. Follow the schools procedures for child protection issues.
Following a disclosure by a child, it is important that the staff member continues in a supportive relationship with the child. Disclosure is a huge step for a child. Staff should continue to offer support, particularly through:
- maintaining a positive relationship with the child;
- keeping lines of communication open by listening carefully to the child;
- continuing to include the child in the usual activities.
Any further disclosure should be treated as a first disclosure and responded to as indicated above. Where necessary, immediate action should be taken to ensure the child’s safety.
What to do if you are concerned about a child’s safety and/or welfare
If any person has misgivings about the safety or welfare of a child, they may consult the Director, Deputy Director or Social Counsellor and seek advice through initiating an informal consultation. This could be just a telephone call and provides an opportunity to discuss the query in general and to decide whether further action is warranted. The consulting party needs to state explicitly that they are not making a report– that they are giving details of a concern, but no identifying information in relation to a child or family. Remember – if in doubt, check it out. If you are concerned about the safety of a child and are unsure what to do, talk to the Director, Deputy Director or Social Counsellor.
Child Protection Plan
A Child Protection Plan is an interagency plan formulated and agreed at a meeting between relevant staff members where the meeting confirms whether or not the child is at ongoing risk of significant harm. It outlines the actions that relevant staff directly involved with the family need to take in order to ensure the child’s continued protection and well-being.
The Child Protection Plan must identify:
- Who is at risk and from whom;
- What are the risk factors;
- How risk will be reduced, within the school;
- the correct agency to be involved;
- What resources are needed within the school to increase or strengthen protective factors and sustain change;
- Identified roles and responsibilities of staff involved;
- Contingency planning and what this will mean for the individual child;
- Timescales for review;
- The name of the professional who will be responsible for overseeing and coordinating the work;
It is important to understand the child and being able to describe a day in the life of a child means knowing:
- What happens to the child in the morning? For example, does anyone get him or her up in the morning? Does he/she have anything to eat? Are clean clothes available? Does the child have a wash? Who, if anyone, is responsible for getting them ready in the morning?
- What are the arrangements for bringing him/her to school (as appropriate)? Is the child expected to make his/her own way or take siblings to child-minder/nursery?
Is this age-appropriate?
- How does he/she spend the morning? Is the child tired and/or hungry at school?
If at home, is the child supervised?
- What happens at lunchtime? Is lunch provided? What happens in the playground?
Does the child have friends?
- Who collects him/her?
- What does he/she normally do after school (in term time) or during the day in the holidays? Is the child expected to care for him/herself and/or others? Are they expected to get food for themselves and others? Is this age-appropriate? Is food available?
- Where does he or she play? At home? Outside? In a friend’s house? Does he/she have friends over to his/her home to play? What types of activities does the child enjoy and what do they do? Does a responsible adult know where the child is and what they are doing? Is the child expected to run errands?
- Who is usually in the family home in the evenings? Is the child left on their own or in charge of other children or dependent adults? Is it age-appropriate?
- Does the child have an evening meal?
- What does the child do in the evenings, in term time or otherwise?
- What happens about the child going to bed? Where does the child sleep? Does anyone tell the child when to go to bed? Do they have a bedtime routine, e.g.
washing, brushing teeth, changing clothes?
- Who stays in the house overnight? What impact does this have on the child? For example, is it too noisy for the child to sleep?
PROCEDURES FOR REPORTING SUSPECTED ABUSE
Designated senior person
- In all cases where abuse is suspected, or disclosed by a student, or a sustainable allegation is made, teachers and other staff members must act promptly and report the information to the designated senior person.
- The designated senior persons in the sections are as follows:
- Vice Principal
- Student counselor / social worker
- All Supervisors.
If a staff member feels unsure about what to do or has concerns about a child or is unsure about being able to recognize the signs or symptoms of possible abuse, he or she should speak to the designated senior person.
Written records and documentation
- Staff will not investigate, but report his/her concerns to the designated senior person. The staff member should document what the student said/did or what other evidence (scars, injuries, writing, drawings, etc…) there is to indicate possible abuse.
- The school will maintain written records of concern, even where there is no need to refer matters immediately.
- The school will ensure that all records are kept securely, separate from the main student files, and in locked locations.
School Principal’s role
The designated senior person will inform the School Principal and discuss the reported case as a matter of urgency to plan a course of action. The School Principal
is responsible for the co-ordination of child protection procedures within the school and for liaising with parents (and social services and other agencies if necessary).
- The parents will be informed immediately if abuse is suspected. Parents will be asked to cooperate with the school and a full investigation into the matter will be launched.
- Parents will be required to provide evidence that they have thoroughly investigated the suspicions raised, and where appropriate, sought out assistance from professional health care providers (including professional counselors or mental health care providers) or social service agencies.
- The school reserves the right to seek professional advice before informing parents.
- If there is suspicion that a parent may be the possible abuser, a referral may be made to a social services agency.
- No referral will be made without good consideration and appropriate/proper advice.
Reports of suspected child abuse cannot be “held in confidence”. This information may have to be shared with other professionals. However, in the interest of the student’s privacy, only staff members directly involved in the matter will be informed.
Safe recruitment practices
- The school will carry out appropriate background checks on all staff during the recruitment process to ensure that adults working in the school are of high moral character and do not pose any risk to children.
- If a complaint of possible child abuse is made against any member of staff, the School Principal will be informed immediately. As a precautionary measure, the member of staff will be removed from all duties to prevent direct contact with students, pending an investigation.