Slide outline: Responding to disclosures of child abuse and neglect

Return to CFCA webinar - 20 June 2018

1. Responding to disclosures of child abuse and neglect

Karen Broadley
CFCA webinar
20 June 2018

2. CFCA webinars

3. Further information

4. My background

  • Practice
  • Research

5. Aim

To assist people working with children and young people to identify, and appropriately respond to indicators and disclosures of child abuse and neglect.

6. (1) What is child abuse and neglect?

The commonly regarded five subtypes of child abuse and neglect are:

  • physical abuse
  • emotional abuse
  • neglect
  • sexual abuse
  • exposure to family violence

Child Family Community Australia (2015) What is child abuse and neglect? Melbourne: CFCA, Australian Institute of Family Studies

7. (2) Who abuses and neglects children?

  • Intra-familial abuse
  • Extra-familial abuse
  • Adults
  • Other children and young people
  • Male
  • Female

Child Family Community Australia (2014) Who abuses children? Melbourne: CFCA, Australian Institute of Family Studies

8. (3) Why is it important to respond well?

  • Provide safety
  • Provide immediate support and comfort

“your response can have a great impact on the child or young person's ability to seek further help and recover from the trauma” (CFCA, 2015)

Child Family Community Australia (2015) Responding to children and young people’s disclosures of abuse. Melbourne: CFCA, Australian Institute of Family Studies

9. (4) When is abuse disclosed?

In the past, many children have remained silent about abuse and neglect.

For example, the Royal Commission found:

20.6% of survivors took between 20 and 29 years to disclose child sexual abuse

55.7% took more than 30 years to disclose sexual abuse

10. (5) How is abuse disclosed?

  • Straightforward
  • Indicated (e.g., change of behaviour, risk taking behaviours, refusing to spend time with a particular person)

11. How is abuse disclosed?

Commonly a child will disclose ‘bits and pieces’ to different people over time.

“… many survivors who disclosed in childhood said that they 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” (Royal Commission Final Report)

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2017) Final Report. Canberra, ACT, Australia: Commonwealth of Australia

12. How is abuse disclosed?

Sometimes it is important to ask direct questions such as:

  • Are you ok?
  • Is anything worrying you?
  • Do you feel safe?
  • How do you know when you feel safe/unsafe?
  • Is there anything you would like me to do to support you?

13. (6) Who do they disclose to?

  • 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

14. (7) What hinders disclosure?

  • Shame and embarrassment
  • Feeling responsible for the abuse
  • Fear of not being believed
  • Fear of negative consequences

15. What else hinders disclosure?

  • Believing that abuse is normal
  • No one to disclose to
  • Lack of confidentiality
  • A general mistrust of adults

16. Some children and young people face additional barriers

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
  • Children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • Children with disabilities

17. (8) Responding supportively

  • Try to stay calm
  • Believe the child
  • Listen to the child and confirm you understand what the child is saying
  • Don’t be afraid of saying the “wrong” thing
  • Tell the child she is brave
  • Tell her it is not her fault
  • Tell her it is right to tell

18. Responding supportively

  • Let the child take her time
  • Avoid “quizzing” the child about details of the abuse­
  • Explain what you plan to do next, who you plan to tell, and why
  • Don't make promises you can't keep
  • Safety and protection is the immediate priority

Child Family Community Australia (2015) Responding to children and young people’s disclosures of abuse. Melbourne: CFCA, Australian Institute of Family Studies

19. (9) What to do after a disclosure?

  • Make a report to child protection or the police
  • Keep information confidential
  • Support the child or young person after the report is made

20. What not to do

Do not:

  • counsel the child
  • investigate the child’s claims
  • confront the perpetrator

21. (10) Duties to report

  • Civil law
    • Mandatory reporting (CFCA, 2014)
  • Criminal law
    • Failure to disclose
    • Failure to protect
  • Common law duty of care
  • Ethical responsibility
  • Community expectations

Child Family Community Australia (2014). Mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect Melbourne: CFCA. Australian Institute of Family Studies

22. (11) Challenges with reporting

  • Uncertainty about whether a suspicion has reached a certain threshold
  • A belief that child protection services will not investigate the report
  • Betraying the trust of the child
  • Concern about making matters worse for the child
  • Damaging your relationship with the parents/carers

23. Challenges with reporting

  • Needing to discuss a case with a manager or someone senior prior to reporting
  • Concern about personal safety

24. (12) Creating supportive conditions

  • Have clear policies and procedures in place
  • Provide people working with children and young people with ongoing advice and support
  • Build relationships with the police, child protection services and other organisations that are involved in protecting children from abuse and neglect

25. Creating supportive conditions

  • Provide children and young people with child abuse prevention programs and information about child abuse
  • Provide programs that will teach young people to support their peers
  • Provide parents with child abuse prevention programs

26. Summary

  • Child abuse and neglect causes pain and suffering in the short and long term
  • Recognise indicators of abuse and neglect
  • Listen, support and believe the child
  • Reassure that it is not the child’s fault and it is right to tell
  • Focus on the child’s safety
  • Seek advice and support
  • Report your concerns to child protection or the police
  • Keep information confidential
  • Support the child and/or family

27. Continue the conversation

Do you have any further questions?

Please submit questions or comments on the online forum following today’s webinar: www.aifs.gov.au/cfca/news-discussion

28. References

Anderst, J., & Dowd, D. (2010). Comparative needs in child abuse education and resources: perceptions from three medical specialties. Medical education online, 15(1), 5193.

Australian Institute of Family Studies. (2014). Mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect CFCA Resource Sheet. Retrieved from https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/mandatoryreporting-child-abuse-and-neglect

Broadley, K., Hunt, S., Goddard, C., & Mudaly, N. (2015). The ethical obligations of research with vulnerable young people who have dependent children. Communities, Children and Families Australia. 9, 2. 23 - 33

Bryant, J. (2009) School counsellors and child abuse reporting: A national survey. Professional School Counseling, 12(5), 333-342

Bryant, J. K., & Baldwin, P. A. (2010). School counsellors’ perceptions of mandatory reporter training and mandatory reporting experiences. Child Abuse Review, 19(3), 172-186

Child Family Community Australia (2015) What is child abuse and neglect? Melbourne: CFCA, Australian Institute of Family Studies

Child Family Community Australia (2014) Who abuses children? Melbourne: CFCA, Australian Institute of Family Studies

Child Family Community Australia (2015) Responding to children and young people’s disclosures of abuse. Melbourne: CFCA, Australian Institute of Family Studies

Child Family Community Australia (2014). Mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect Melbourne: CFCA. Australian Institute of Family Studies

Herring, S., Spangaro, J., Lauw, M., & McNamara, L. (2013). The intersection of trauma, racism, and cultural competence in effective work with Aboriginal people: Waiting for trust. Australian Social Work, 66(1), 104-117

Lines, L.E., Hutton, A.W., & Grant, J. (2017) Integrative review: nurses’ roles and experiences in keeping children safe. Journal of advanced nursing, 73(2), 302-322

Mathews, B., & Walsh, K. (2014). Mandatory reporting laws. In A. Hayes & D. J. Higgins (Eds.), Families, policy and the law: Selected essays on contemporary issues for Australia (pp. 131 - 142). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies

Moore, T., Noble-Carr, D., & McArthur, M. (2010) Who cares? Young people with parents who use alcohol or other ddrugs talk about their experiences with services. Family Matters (5), 18.

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2017) Final Report. Canberra, ACT, Australia: Commonwealth of Australia

Scott, D., & Fraser, J. (2015). Mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect by health professionals Mandatory Reporting Laws and the Identification of Severe Child Abuse (pp. 381-393): Springer.

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