Audio transcript: Responding to disclosures of child abuse and neglect

Return to CFCA webinar - 20 June 2018

Audio transcript (edited)

MS HUNTER

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to today's webinar, "Responding to disclosures of child abuse and neglect." My name is Cathryn Hunter and I'm Manager of Knowledge Translation for the Emerging Minds project here at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Today's webinar presentation will summarise recent research on how professionals working with children and young people can create environments that support and respond well to children's and young people's disclosures of abuse or neglect. It will also discuss the various barriers to responding to child abuse and neglect and outline potential strategies to address them.

Before I introduce our speaker, I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we are meeting. In Melbourne the traditional custodians are the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging and to Elders from other communities who may be participating today.

Firstly, some housekeeping details. One of the core functions of the CFCA information exchange is to share knowledge, so I would like to invite everyone to submit questions via the chat box at any time during the webinar. We will respond to your questions at the end of the presentation. We would also like you to continue the conversation we begin here today. To facilitate this, we've set up a forum on our website where you can discuss the ideas and issues raised, submit additional questions for our presenter and access related resources. We will send you a link to the forum at the end of today's presentation. 

As you leave the webinar a short survey will open in a new window; we would appreciate your feedback. Please remember that this webinar is being recorded and the audio transcript and slides will be made available on our website and YouTube channel soon. 

It is now my pleasure to introduce today's presenter, Karen Broadley. Karen is a Senior Research Officer with the CFCA information exchange based here at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Karen has more than 20 years' experience working in the fields of youth work, child and family welfare and statutory child protection services. This has included a number of roles within the Victorian statutory child protection system, including leadership positions.

Karen has authored a number of journal articles, book chapters and reports, all focusing on the topics of child protection and child safety. Please join me in giving Karen a very warm virtual welcome.

MS BROADLEY 

Thank you, Cathryn, and thank you to everyone taking part in this webinar today. In this presentation I'll be covering a lot of material and moving through it quite quickly. So, if you have some questions that I don't speak to, please do post these questions online.

For those of you who are new to our webinars, the Australian Institute of Family Studies is the Australian Government's key research body in the area of family wellbeing. And Child Family Community Australia is the AIFS information hub for evidence, resources and support for professionals working in the child, family and community welfare sector. If after the webinar you would like to do some further reading on responding to children and young people's disclosures of abuse, the third resource sheet from the top is on this topic. The other resource sheets listed here are also relevant to the presentation today. The PowerPoint presentation will be available on the website after today so there is no need to take notes. 

Cathryn has told you a little bit about my background so, as I said, I'm going to move through this quite quickly, so I won't tie up any time talking about that. Basically, the aim of the presentation today is to assist people working with children and young people to identify and appropriately respond to indicators and disclosures of child abuse and neglect. To do this I will draw from the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and other academic research.

Although the focus of the Royal Commission was on child sexual abuse and much of the literature about responding to child abuse and neglect also focuses on sexual abuse many of these findings are relevant to child abuse and neglect more generally. It is important to say at the outset that many of the challenges we face in the child, family and community welfare sector are complex challenges, which defy simple solutions. Quite often we would like to be given a script or a tool, a practice standard or a form with some boxes to tick, we would like to have some prescribed steps and actions to take, and we would like some certainty.

But best practice requires much more than tools and lists. It is not that there is no place for them, but we also as practitioners must draw from our good character, like compassion, empathy, honesty, courage, patience, authenticity. We must understand and work to the goal of our practice, which is, for us, children's safety and wellbeing. We must also draw from our intuition, from emotion, from our experience, and how to reflect on our experience.

We must also understand that sometimes there are some real complexities and tensions intrinsic to the work we do and that sometimes there really isn't a right answer; there is just an all things considered best answer for a particular child in a particular situation. But, of course, sometimes there is a right answer, and I will talk about some of these things today. As a by the way, these ideas I have just spoken about, being mindful of the goal drawing from our intuition, experience and so on, are taken from Aristotle's virtue ethics. The virtue ethics tradition is a lovely and a sensible ethical framework that can help us think well and act well in the very complex work that we do. 

As I go through each of the slides I will ask and answer a question that is relevant to our overall question about how we are to respond to children and young people's disclosures of abuse. There are 12 questions in total that I am going to ask and answer. The first questions are fairly straightforward, such as: What is child abuse and neglect? Who abuses children? And, why is it important to respond well to children's disclosures?

Answering these questions is important because it provides the context from which to answer the later questions such as how to respond supportively to a child's disclosure, what to do after a disclosure, what are our duties to report child abuse and neglect, and what some of the challenges are associated with reporting child abuse and neglect. 

So, the answer to the first question is that child abuse and neglect is commonly divided into five types: physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and exposure to family violence. If you would like further information about these abuse types, you can refer to the resource sheet listed at the bottom of this slide.

The second question is who abuses children? Children can be abused by people from within the family, which is sometimes known as intra-familial abuse, and from outside the family, which is known as extra-familial abuse. Research tells us that child sexual abuse can be perpetrated by a wide group of people. Importantly, often the perpetrator is known to the child. Child physical abuse is usually perpetrated by parents or carers. When it is perpetrated by people outside the family it is usually called something different; for example, bullying.

Emotional abuse, neglect and exposure to family violence are, by their nature, abuse types that generally occur within the family. Children can be abused by adults and also by other children and young people. In fact, quite a lot of abuse is perpetrated by children and young people against other children and young people. Studies suggest that 30 to 50 per cent, maybe even higher, of sexual abuse is perpetrated by children and young people. Although males are responsible for most incidents of physical and sexual violence against women and children, females can and do also abuse children.

Of the 1,476 survivors giving evidence in private hearings at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, nearly 14 per cent of the alleged abusers were reported to be female. So, estimates of female perpetrated child sexual abuse range from about 5 per cent, even up to about 15 or 20 per cent. Knowing a true estimate is difficult and even those figures that I have quoted need some qualification. But, certainly, the numbers of female perpetrators is higher than what many people have previously thought it to be.

So, the key message here really is that the abuser may not fit our idea or stereotype of what an abuser should look like. This is really important, because if we have in our minds that a particular person, because of their age, gender, position in society and so on, couldn't possibly abuse a child, then this can be a barrier to us really hearing a child's disclosure.

The next question, why is it important to respond well to children and young people's disclosures of abuse? In essence, it is important to respond well so that the child's safety can be ensured, or at least increased. Also, responding well will help the child connect to professional services that can work with a child and family to achieve safety and protection for the child. Responding well can help the child to trust professionals who will be there to help them.

Your supportive response can also provide immediate support and comfort to the child. Integral to all of this is the child's safety. A good supportive response will optimise safety for the child. 

Question 4: When do children and young people disclose abuse? Findings from the Royal Commission are that it took many survivors many years to disclose sexual abuse. It was found that about 20 per cent of survivors took between 20 and 29 years to disclose child sexual abuse and 55.7 per cent took more than 30 years to disclose sexual abuse.

Although these findings are specific to child sexual abuse there are similar findings that talk about how difficult it can be for children to disclose other types of abuse as well. As well as taking a long time to disclose abuse, some children who do disclose later retract or deny the abuse. This may be for a range of reasons, such as fear of negative consequences for themselves or for their family, or shame and self-blame. So the message here is that children and young people typically find it very difficult to talk about all types of abuse and neglect and some children take a long time to fully disclose what is happening. 

Question 5: How do children and young people disclose abuse? Disclosure is sometimes straightforward. For example, a child may disclose abuse after participating in an education program. However, more often disclosure is not straightforward. A child or young person may indicate abuse by changing their behaviour in some way or engaging in risk-taking behaviour such as self-harming, or by refusing to spend time with a particular person or indicating a dislike for a person. Or, if something has happened at home, the child may not want to go home.

Importantly, one of the most powerful indicators or signs of child sexual abuse is age inappropriate knowledge of sex. Commonly a child will disclose bits and pieces of abuse to different people over time. According to the Royal Commission, many survivors who disclosed in childhood said that they had made a number of smaller disclosures rather than a full disclosure of the abuse. 

They may have tested a potential recipient to see how they responded by drip feeding information, or may have limited a disclosure if they thought the person they were telling was not receptive or not coping with the disclosure. So when that occurs, when a child gives only a small piece of information, it is important to try and recognise this is an indicator and to feel comfortable following up on hints of abuse or neglect. This means having the ability to ask direct questions, such as: Are you okay? Is anything worrying you? Do you feel safe? How do you know when you feel safe or unsafe? Is there anything you would like me to do to support you?

And you will obviously initiate this conversation at the right time and place so you won't be interrupted and you have some privacy. It is also important to relay hints of disclosure to your superiors in your organisation, because there have been situations in organisations where a child has, say, been abused and one person hears or knows a little bit of information but doesn't think it's enough. It's a bit of a red flag, someone else sees a red flag, someone else does, but people don't feed it up to management.

But then later on, when there's an inquiry, the pieces are put together and it can be seen that if that information was pointed in the right direction then the children would have been protected. It is important to point out that we can never guarantee that a child who is being abused will disclose the abuse that is happening, because we don't know the exact situation the child is in. But what we can do is be a caring supportive person in a child's life and provide a supportive response to their disclosure indicators and hints of abuse.

The problem with so many of the findings of the Royal Commission is that so many children try to disclose abuse and, in fact, often did disclose, but they were brushed aside, ignored, disbelieved and even punished. Our responsibility is to respond well and act to increase children's safety when they do disclose abuse or when they give out hints or indicators of abuse.

The next question is: Who are children and young people likely to disclose abuse to? The findings of the Royal Commission, and other research, are that younger children are more likely to disclose to a parent, particularly their mother. Older children and young people are more likely to disclose to their friends. So, in some instances, a young person may talk to a friend who then talks to an adult, say, a youth leader or a teacher, about their friend who has disclosed abuse to them. They may do this because they are concerned for their friend and don't know what to do to help them. So then it is up to the adult to respond well to this secondary disclosure.

The seventh question: What hinders or gets in the way of a child disclosing abuse? Commonly things, such as the child or young person's sense of shame and embarrassment, can get in the way of them talking about what has happened to them. In situations where there is family violence or parental drug and alcohol abuse, for example, children and young people can feel shame and embarrassment. In the Royal Commission, shame and embarrassment were commonly identified as a barrier to disclosure of sexual abuse. Survivors spoke about feeling uncomfortable talking about sex and body parts.

One survivor who grew up a Catholic is quoted as saying, "My parents just didn't even talk about sex. Nobody did. I wasn't told anything and I didn't even know what my testicles were." So it is important to feel comfortable having difficult conversations, talking about sad emotions, sex and body parts. Feeling responsible for the abuse is a feeling children and young people commonly have, and this can also get in the way of them talking about the abuse.

This can particularly be the case if the abuse has been going on for a long time. The longer the abuse goes on the more complicit the child may feel. Or the child can just have a feeling that the listener will say, "Well, why haven't you said something before? Why now?" So in this situation you need to tell the child that the abuse is not her fault. Then there is the fear of not being believed. This may be particularly the case if the perpetrator does not fit a particular profile. For example, according to the Royal Commission, many survivors met disbelief and hostility when they were children and spoke about what a priest, or someone else in a respected position, had done to them.

So it is really important to believe the child and tell the child that you believe him. This point about believing is really important. I remember when I read through some of the transcripts of the Royal Commission feeling shocked and saddened by how many children did disclose abuse but weren't believed. So, although many survivors didn't disclose as children, there were also many who did, but they just weren't believed.

Children and young people can also be afraid of negative consequences for themselves or their family. For example, they may have been threatened by the perpetrator, they might fear losing support if they are dependent on the perpetrator, or the child may be afraid of a negative reaction from family or their family being unable to cope. Again, findings from the Royal Commission were that some children did not disclose abuse because they were concerned about how their parents would react.

One survivor spoke about his concern that his father would kill the perpetrator. Another spoke about his parents not being emotionally strong and not having the ability to cope. Or the child may even be concerned about the listener's ability to cope with what the child is saying. 

There are other things that can get in the way of a child disclosing abuse. For example, the child may believe that the abuse is normal, particularly if a child has experienced the abuse her whole life. Or the child may have no one to disclose to. Again, the Royal Commission found that some children did not disclose because they had no one to talk to. Or the child may be concerned about lack of confidentiality. Or if a child has had negative experiences with adults and has experienced them as untrustworthy this may make it difficult for them to disclose abuse.

Again, it is important to remember that we can never guarantee that every child who is being abused will disclose abuse that is happening. Some of the barriers to a child disclosing abuse might exist outside of our control. For example, the child being threatened. However, what we can do is be an approachable and trustworthy person who is able to respond well to difficult conversations. We are only responsible for doing what we can do to protect a child. We can't do what we can't do. Secondary consultation and specialist advice is crucial in assisting us to know the difference.

Some children and young people face additional barriers and difficulties in disclosing abuse and neglect. For example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children may be particularly reluctant to disclose abuse because of past experiences of forced removal, racism and fear. There is research to suggest that Indigenous children face an inescapable dilemma; that's coming from Herring's work. Inescapable dilemma, on the one hand to maintain silence about abuse or risk, or risk involving child protection and criminal justice systems, which have the power to break their families and communities apart.

Some children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds also face additional barriers. For example, they might be afraid of being isolated from their community and afraid of other negative consequences if they disclose abuse. They might feel pressured to put family and community needs before their own needs. In the case of child sexual abuse they might be worried that they will be disgraced and their family will be disgraced and, if they are a girl, that she may have less marriage prospects.

Children with disabilities can also face additional barriers to disclosing abuse. If they have communication difficulties, for example, or if they're dependant on the abuser, or if they have not been educated about sexuality and other aspects of personal safety then they won't have the language to describe abuse. 

So now we are getting to the crux of the issue. How do we respond supportively to a child's disclosure, indicators or hints of abuse? And the answer to this question really does draw from everything I've just said. Firstly, it is important to try to stay calm. Given what I just said before that some children and young people don't disclose abuse because they are afraid of people being unable to cope or afraid of negative reactions, it is important to counteract this by being as calm as you can be. Although hearing that a child or young person has been abused is distressing it is important to stay as calm as possible.

This, of course, doesn't mean that you must not show emotion, but you do need to try and be in control of your emotion and to explain your emotions to the child. For example, you might tell the child that he or she is not the cause of your distress. You might say that you feel upset because adults are meant to care for children and not hurt them. Like I said before, it is crucial that you believe the child. Even if what the child is saying is a shock and even if the abuser doesn't fit the type or profile of who you think an abuser should look like, still believe the child.

Also, confirm to the child that you are listening and that you understand what the child is saying. This is partly about letting the child know that you believe her and you are taking the conversation seriously. Don't be afraid of saying the wrong thing. Listening supportively and having empathy is more important than the details of what you say, and this is really important. Here you are and the care, concern and respect the child feels coming from you is what is most important.

Also, reassure the child she is brave to talk about something so difficult and emphasise that the abuse is not the child's fault. This is important given children commonly feel responsible for abuse. And reassure the child that it is right to tell. Also let the child take his time and avoid quizzing the child or young person about the details of the abuse. Although you will need to ask some questions, you need to be balanced about this; you don't want to go to either extreme either quizzing the child or asking no questions, balance is important.

It is really important that you explain to the child or young person that in order for them to be safe you will need to report what they have told you to someone else. Explain what you plan to do next, who you plan to tell and why. Don't make promises you can't keep and remember that the child's safety and protection is the most important thing.

So we are up to Question No.9: What do we do after a child has made a disclosure? This is super important. We have listened supportively, we have told the child that we will need to take some further action, what do we do next? Firstly, it is important to make a report to child protection in your area or to the police. You should in your organisation have these phone numbers handy. Even if you have reason to believe that a report has already been made or that an investigation is underway, any disclosure of abuse should still be reported to child protection and/or the police.

The question of who to call, child protection or the police, will partly depend on your location and issues to do with response times. Importantly, it would also depend on the nature of the abuse the child is suffering and the child's immediate safety. So, by this I mean that, if a child is being seriously abused, say, sexual or physical abuse, and there is reason to believe that another incident of abuse may occur again within hours, well then this requires an immediate response and I would suggest you would need to ring whoever you can get onto first.

Generally, if you were unsure, it is important that you seek advice from specialist services and professionals. So, for example, seek advice from superiors within your organisation, the police or child protection, and remember specialist cultural advisers. Secondly, it is important to keep the information the child has told you confidential. Only tell those people who must be informed of the disclosure. This will include your supervisor or manager, child protection and the police.

Thirdly, it is important that you support the child or young person as best you can after the report is made. If you are limited in what you can do to support the child then you might talk to the child about who else might be able to support them, or even make a referral to another organisation. It may also be important for you to keep the child or young person informed about the progress of the report so they are not left feeling anxious, left hanging about what exactly is going to happen next and when.

It is important to remember that it is not your role to counsel the child or investigate what the child has said. Child protection workers will investigate and professional counsellors are available to provide counselling. Also, it is important not to confront the perpetrator. 

The tenth question considers our duties to report child abuse and neglect. I am going to go through this quite quickly because I still have a little bit to get through. There are civil laws and criminal laws and these are different in each jurisdiction, each state and territory. Mandatory reporting laws are civil laws. So some professionals are mandated under the law to report child abuse and neglect, particular types. 

In some places there are criminal laws: failure to disclose laws, failure to protect. In some places they're called bystander laws. There is also common law duty of care, which I won't go into in any detail, but I do have resources and information about this if anybody would like further information. We also, of course, have an ethical responsibility to report child abuse and neglect. And I think particularly after the findings of the Royal Commission, where so many organisations didn't respond well to child abuse there now is increased community awareness and increased community expectations that people, particularly professionals, will respond well to disclosures of child abuse and neglect.

So we are nearly reaching the end, but I do want to go through some of the challenges associated with reporting child abuse and neglect. We know that we need to report it. We know that legally we need to, we know it's ethically right that we should report it, we care about children, we care about their safety and wellbeing, we want to make children safe, we want them to be well and we want them to thrive. But that doesn't mean that going through the process of making a report is actually simple and straightforward and easy.

There are some research studies that highlight some of the challenges in making reports to the authorities about child abuse and neglect, and these are really worth mentioning because once we understand what some of those dilemmas are and what some of those difficulties are, we can actually then improve our systems and our processes and provide more support to each other so that we can actually do what we want to do, and that is protect children.

So research suggests that workers can be uncertain about whether their suspicion has reached a certain threshold, and this can act as a barrier to them reporting child abuse. In many respects the answer is fairly straightforward – if in doubt, report. The reality is that the police and child protection will often have more information than what you have because they can gather information from multiple sources, from health professionals, education professionals and many others. And they also have information over time. In other words, they will have a history on file. 

So their information combined with what you report to them may be enough to actually constitute a concern. So, for example, you might be concerned about a particular child, there might be some sexualised behaviours, but you might not think it's enough to report to child protection. Maybe you've spoken to the child about whether she is worried about anything, whether she feels safe and so on, but the child has not disclosed anything.

If you then do make a report to child protection or the police, they might have information on file that the child's uncle, who is a registered sex offender, has just been released from jail. So that extra information then might be enough for someone to actually go and talk to the child and then the child might make a disclosure and then the child's safety can be ensured. 

So it's really important to err on the side of safety and make a report if you do have some concerns. Of course, we need to acknowledge that there are researchers that talk about the problem with child protection systems becoming overloaded and too many people making too many reports. Still, the rule of thumb should be that it's better to over-report and err on the side of safety rather than under-report. An important way through this, one important way, is to talk with supervisors or managers, colleagues, or ring child protection for a consultation.

You don't always need to tell child protection the details of the child. You can just ring them for a consultation to say, "This is the situation, this is what I'm concerned about, is it worth making a report?" But, like I say, if you're concerned it's better to err on the side of safety and make that report. Research has also found that if workers believe that child protection will not investigate the report anyway then this can act as a barrier to reporting.

Although the worker might be right and child protection may not investigate, the worker still needs to report. As I said, we don't know what other information child protection may have on file and might have from other sources. Research has also shown that workers can be concerned about betraying the trust of the child and making matters worse for the child. As previously stated, it is important to tell the child that you need to report the concerns.

It is important to tell the child that you are taking this action because you care and because you are concerned about the child's safety. It is important that you support the child as best you can and, if necessary, try to refer the child or family to other supports and services. Professionals have also told researchers about their concerns about damaging their relationships with parents and carers. These concerns are often very valid and often arise out of a worker's concern for families who are isolated.

They might worry that, if the child or family knows they have made a report about them, they will become even more isolated and mistrustful of people and services and this in turn could create new and greater risks for children. This is a complicated issue. Generally transparent reporting is important, so this means telling families that you are planning to make a report to child protection. However, this can be particularly tricky and possibly even counterproductive if you make a report and child protection doesn't do anything anyway.

The reality is that most reports made to child protection are not investigated; they are closed. So the way forward may be to make a report, find out the outcome and, only if it is going to be investigated, then talk to the family. On the other hand, in a situation where a child or young person discloses to you and you tell the child you plan to make a report and you don't know whether it will be investigated you may put a plan in place with the child, particularly an older child or young person, to update them about the progress of the report.

This may increase trust between the child and you or the parents and you, if it's the parents that you are working with. Even if the broader system doesn't respond in a way that you or the child thinks is helpful, at least you have acted in an honest, transparent, trustworthy way. And this is not only good for your relationship with the child, it is also good for the child because it gives the child an experience of a trustworthy person and a trusting relationship.

Overall, it is important to be flexible and not too fixated on rules. Although many agencies have transparent reporting guidelines, and this is important, some flexibility in some situations may be warranted. Flexibility, of course, needs to only happen through conversation and collaboration. It is not a decision that any one person should make on their own. The idea of follow through with children and families is also important. The way you treat them and the contact you have with them after the report is made, and keeping them informed, is crucial.

Still other challenges involved with reporting child abuse and neglect include workers believing that they must discuss a case with a senior colleague or manager before reporting. For example, one research study found that in a hospital setting doctors are seen as the authority with nurses feeling the need to convince the doctor of the legitimacy of their concerns before making a report.

However, mandatory reporting and failure to report laws can be seen as a way to deal with this hierarchy. If a worker suspects abuse or is concerned about a child and the senior staff member disagrees, the worker who has the suspicion is still legally bound to report. Research also finds that workers can be concerned about their own personal safety, and this is an important concern.

This can be particularly true for professionals working in rural and remote locations. If a worker is personally known by the families they are working with, and if the family knows or suspects the worker has made a report about them, the worker may be concerned for their own safety or their own family's safety if the family know where they live.

In relation to the problem of workers' safety, some researchers have suggested that organisations should have structured guidelines that require workers to report all types of threatening and violent incidents to management. Researchers have also suggested that workers should have clear information from management about what they can expect from the organisation after they report an incident of threats or violence or intimidation. 

There are some researchers who suggest that service users should be given clear messages about what types of behaviour are unacceptable and what the response will be if their behaviour is violent or threatening. It is also worth noting, and I'm going to mention Victoria here – it's where I live so I know the legislation here and haven't looked into whether there's this legislation elsewhere – but it's worth noting that in June 2014 in Victoria legislation was introduced to provide for longer sentences for people who commit acts of violence against emergency workers.

This includes police, firefighters, paramedics, nurses and doctors. Whether similar legislation might support the safety of child, family and community workers and child protection workers is something that may deserve some discussion.

The last question is to do with how we are to create supportive conditions for supporting and enabling children and young people's disclosures of child abuse and neglect. This is a huge question. I have listed a few answers, but this really is too big a question for me to really delve into today. It is important for organisations to have clear policies and procedures in place for creating child safe organisations and responding to suspicions of child abuse and neglect.

It is also important that people working with children and young people be provided with ongoing training, advice, support, supervision and, at times, good debriefing because the work can sometimes be distressing. It is also important for organisations to build relationships with the police, child protection services and other professionals who are involved in protecting children from abuse and neglect.

Where appropriate, it is also important to provide children and young people, and parents with child abuse prevention programs and other programs that will ultimately increase the safety of children and young people.

So, in summary, we know that child abuse and neglect damages children in multiple ways. It hurts them in the short term and causes harm to their growth and development in the long term. It is important for professionals and people working with children and young people to do their best to be approachable and to build trusting, mutually respectful relationships with children. It is important to recognise indicators and signs of child abuse and neglect and to follow up on hints of abuse and neglect.

If a child discloses abuse it is important to listen, support and believe the child. Tell the child that it is not his fault and it is right to tell. Remember that the child's safety is the most important thing. In order to achieve this, it is important to seek advice and support from those in your organisation, child protection and, where appropriate, also the police, also from specialist services such as disability services and specialist cultural advisers.

After you have made a report, it is important, wherever possible, to maintain contact with the child and family. If child protection and/or the police do decide to follow up on your report, this is likely to be a very difficult and stressful time for the child and family. It is important to try to not distance yourself from them at a time when they most need your support. And even if they're angry with you, or even if they do feel betrayed, it's still important to try and remain involved and remain connected because that's when they need your support.

The question about how we best respond to children and young people's disclosures of child abuse and neglect often doesn't have easy answers or steps. However, there are ideas, guidelines and research findings that can help us find our way forward. I hope this presentation has assisted you to feel more confident about responding to the problem of child abuse and neglect.

WEBINAR CONCLUDED

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