Health and social care providers are required to take part in safeguarding children. Even though there is no legislation that requires adults care, who work with children, to report suspected abuse; the general public is encouraged to do so. If you suspect something is wrong then it’s important that you speak up immediately. This blog post will discuss five simple things that can help when protecting a child from harm or abuse. It is worth noting that these points aren’t exhaustive but they are good places to start if you want to keep your eyes open for any concerning signs of potential harm caused towards a child at risk of being abused or neglected by their parent(s).
‘If you see something, say something.’
This is a key point; if you suspect something isn’t right then it’s important to report it straight away. It is only by speaking up that we will be able to help those who may need protection from physical or sexual abuse and neglect (or indeed another type of harm). It is far better to be over-cautious than to doubt your gut feeling and not say something.
Trust your instincts
If you have a feeling that something isn’t right, despite no visible signs of abuse or neglect, then it’s important to trust your instincts and report the concerns immediately. Take time to think things over if you are unsure but don’t let the situation become more serious before you have spoken up. Don’t just push your concerns to one side as it may be too late if you do so.
Look out for warning signs of abuse and neglect
There is no setlist of what constitutes a ‘warning sign’, although there are several examples that are known to be signs of potential harm. A child may try to hide what is happening at home or they may not want to go home or they may be suffering from neglect due to the parent(s) inability (for example, by not having enough food in the house). It is important that you remain vigilant if you suspect something; don’t just let it pass.
- If you are in the process of applying for adoption, think about what would happen if your prospective adoptive child disclosed that they had been harmed or abused in their birth family; how would you respond?
This is an important question to consider, not just when you are waiting for approval but at every stage of the adoption process. In fact, it can be a useful question to keep in your mind throughout the entire process as you prepare for an adoptive child to join your family.
Be realistic with yourself and those around you, about what adoption means
In reality, adoption will never give a child their ‘real’ birth parents, and nor should it be expected to. A child’s birth parents are important to them, even if they choose not to have contact with their adoptive family. It is the role of the adoptive parents to make sure that they are open with their children about their adoption story and do not try to replace each other (although this can be difficult); it is crucial that both biological and adoptive parents are respected.
Remember, safeguarding children is everyone’s responsibility not just those in the health and social care sector. If you have concerns about a child who may be at risk of harm then it is important that action is taken immediately to prevent further harm or abuse from occurring. What may seem like small steps can lead to big changes in protecting children.