This policy was formulated in consultation with Board of Management, Principal, Deputy Principal, Teachers, all staff and parents.
The Department of Education & Science has introduced guidelines and Procedures for all schools in relation to Child Protection Welfare. These Guidelines, both Primary & Post Primary, promote the welfare of all children and are welcomed by Scoil Eoin/Coláiste Eoin. These guidelines are based on “Children First: National Guidelines for the protection & Welfare of Children” were published in 1999 and updated in 2011 by the Department of Education and Skills in collaboration with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the HSE. The Board of Management and the entire school staff has accepted these guidelines as School Policy.
This policy was developed to assist both teachers and Special Needs Assistants, Parents and all staff in understanding their role in the school community and to do their utmost to provide guidelines and instruction in dealing with allegations or suspicions of Child Abuse. The primary aim of this policy is to give direction and guidance to school management authorities and school personnel in dealing with allegations / suspicions of child abuse. In addition, it also aims to provide sufficient information to school management authorities and school personnel to enable them to be alert to and to be aware of what to do in situations where there is a concern, suspicion or allegation of child abuse. In all cases, the most important consideration to be taken into account is the protection of children. In this regard, these guidelines emphasise that the safety and well being of children must be a priority.
This policy aims to follow the strict guidelines as laid out in the Child Protection Policy and Children First Guidelines andto treat all informationgathered with confidentiality and respect.
This policy aims to :
- Create a safe, trusting, responsive and caring environment.
- Provide a personal safety skills education which specifically addresses abuse prevention for all children in school.
- Develop awareness and responsibility in the area of child protection amongst the whole school community.
- Put in place procedures for good practice to protect all children and staff.
- Ensure that all staff members are aware of and familiar with the “Children First” and the DES guidelines and procedures in relation to reporting concerns and/or disclosures of child abuse.
- Provide for ongoing training in this and related areas for all school staff.
Responsibilities of the School
- To provide a safe and secure environment.
- To teach a Personal Safety Programme i.e. the Stay Safe Programme / Walk Tall Programme.
- To abide by the Child Protection Guidelines.
Staff members are expected to familiarise themselves with the D.E.S. guidelines and Procedures and to follow same when appropriate.
Definition and Recognition of Child Abuse
The Health Board defines abuse under 4 headings:
- NEGLECT. Circumstantial, wilful, and significant harm. A lot of referrals come under this heading.
- EMOTIONAL. Relationship and domestic violence
- PHYSICAL. Non- accidental injury and failure to protect…
- SEXUAL. Non – contact and contact.
- WHO IS THE VICTIM? Both genders, from a very young age. Special Needs Pupils are most at risk.
- WHO ARE THE ABUSERS? A very high percentage of abusers are known to the children. Both genders are from all social and cultural backgrounds.
- WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF ABUSE? This varies, depending on a variety of factors including the relationship with the abuser.
All school personnel should be familiar with signs and behaviours that may be indicative of child abuse. Child abuse can be categorised into four different types: neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse. A child may be subjected to one or more forms of abuse at any given time. For detailed definitions of abuse, refer to Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health & Children). The categories of abuse may be summarised as follows:
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, medical care. Harm can be defined as the ill-treatment or the impairment of the health or development of a child. Whether it is significant is determined by his/her health and development as compared to that which could reasonably be expected of a child of similar age. Neglect generally becomes apparent in different ways over a period of time rather than at one specific point. For instance, a child who suffers a series of minor injuries may not be having his or her needs met for supervision and safety. A child whose ongoing failure to gain weight or whose height is significantly below average may be being deprived of adequate nutrition. A child who consistently misses school may be being deprived of intellectual stimulation. The threshold of significant harm is reached when the child’s needs are neglected to the extent that his or her wellbeing and/or development are severely affected.
Emotional abuse is normally to be found in the relationship between an adult and a child rather than in a specific event or pattern of events. It occurs when a child’s need for affection, approval, consistency and security is not met. It is rarely manifested in terms of physical symptoms. For children with disabilities it may include over-protection or conversely failure to acknowledge or understand a child’s disability.
Examples of emotional abuse include:
(a) Persistent criticism, sarcasm, hostility or blaming;
(b) Where the level of care is conditional on his or her behaviour;
(c) Unresponsiveness, inconsistent or inappropriate expectations of a child;
(d) Premature imposition of responsibility on the child;
(e) Over or under protection of the child;
(f) Failure to provide opportunities for the child’s education and development;
(g) Use of unrealistic or over-harsh disciplinary measures;
(h) Exposure to domestic violence.
Children show signs of emotional abuse by their behaviour (e.g. excessive clinginess to or avoidance of the parent/carer), by their emotional state (e.g. low self- esteem, unhappiness), or by their development (e.g. non-organic failure to thrive). The threshold of significant harm is reached when abusive interactions dominate and become typical of the relationship between the child and the parent/carer.
Physical abuse is any form of non-accidental injury or injury which results from willful or neglectful failure to protect a child, including:
(b) Use of excessive force in handling;
(c) Deliberate poisoning;
(e) Munchausen’s Syndrome by proxy (where parents/carers fabricate stories of illness about their child or cause physical signs of illness);
(f) Allowing or creating a substantial risk of significant harm to a child;
Sexual abuse occurs when a child is used by another person for his or her gratification or sexual arousal, or for that of others. Examples of child sexual abuse include the following:
1) exposure of the sexual organs or any sexual act intentionally performed in the presence of the child;
2) intentional touching or molesting of the body of a child whether by a person or object for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification;
3) masturbation in the presence of the child or the involvement of the child in an act of masturbation;
4) sexual intercourse with the child whether oral, vaginal, or anal;
5) Sexual exploitation of a child includes inciting, encouraging propositioning, requiring or permitting a child to solicit for, or to engage in, prostitution or other sexual acts. Sexual exploitation also occurs when a child is involved in the exhibition, modeling or posing for the purpose of sexual arousal,
gratification or sexual act, including its recording (on film, video tape or other media) or the manipulation, for those purposes, of the image by computer or other means. It may also include showing sexually explicit material to children which is often a feature of the “grooming” process by perpetrators of abuse.
6) Sexual activity involving an under-age person. In relation to child sexual abuse it should be noted that, for the purposes of the criminal law, the age of consent (see glossary) for sexual intercourse varies according to the people
involved. For example, sexual intercourse between a 16 year-old girl and her 17 year-old boyfriend is illegal, although it might not be regarded as constituting child sexual abuse. In all cases where a school becomes aware of underage sexual intercourse the school should take appropriate steps to inform the child’s parents.
The decision to initiate child protection action in such cases is a matter for professional judgement and each case should be considered individually. The criminal aspects of any case will be dealt with by An Garda Siochana under the relevant legislation.
Cases of underage pregnancy/sexual activity may be indicative of child
abuse. If such concerns exist the Designated Liaison Person for the school should seek advice from the Duty Social Worker as set out in paragraph 4.2.2 of the Guidelines.
Where a decision is made to report the matter to the Health Board, the
reporting procedures outlined in Chapter 4 of these Guidelines should be followed.
Signs and Symptoms of Child Abuse
Signs of abuse can be physical, behavioural or developmental. A cluster or pattern of signs is the most reliable indicator of abuse. The following indicators should be noted. It is important, however, to realise that all of these indicators can occur in other situations where abuse has not been a factor and that the list is not exhaustive.
- Unexplained bruising in soft tissue areas
- Repeated Injury
- Black eye(s)
- Injuries to mouth
- Torn or bloodstained clothing
- Burns and scalds
- Marks from implements
- Inconsistent stories, excuses relating to injuries
- Unexplained changes in behaviour – becoming withdrawn or aggressive
- Regressive Behaviour
- Difficulty in making friends
- Distrustful of adults or excessive attachment to adults
- Sudden drop in performance
- Inappropriate sexual awareness, behaviour or language
- Unusual reluctance to remove clothing
- Reluctance to go home
- Change in attendance pattern
- The Education Welfare Act 2000 requires a Principal to report certain categories of non-attendance to an Educational Welfare Office. However, where it is considered that a pattern of non attendance may also be an indicator of possible child abuse it remains the responsibility of the Designated Liaison Person in the school to consult with and/or report the matter to the health board.
Particular behavioural signs and emotional problems suggestive of child abuse in older children (10 years +) may include mood change (e.g. depression, failure to communicate), running away, substance abuse (e.g. drugs, alcohol, solvents), self mutilation, suicide attempts, delinquency, truancy, eating disorders and isolation. All signs/indicators need careful assessment relative to the child’s circumstances.
More detailed information on the signs and symptoms of child abuse is provided in Chapter 3 and Appendix 1 of Children First.
Children with Special Vulnerabilities
Certain children are more vulnerable to abuse than others. These include children with disabilities and children who, for one reason or another, are separated from parents or other family members and who depend on others for their care and protection. The same categories of abuse – neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse – may be applicable, but may take a slightly different form. For example, abuse may take the form of deprivation of basic rights, harsh disciplinary regimes or the inappropriate use of medications or physical restraints.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF ALL SCHOOL PERSONNEL
Designated Liaison Person
It is the responsibility of the Board of Management to designate a senior member of staff as the Designated Liaison Person for the school. Principal, Deputy Principal. The Designated Liaison Person will act as a liaison with outside agencies and as a resource person to any staff member or volunteer who has child protection concerns.
The Designated Liaison Person, or his/her nominated replacement, should immediately, or as soon as possible thereafter, inform the Board of Management the school that a report involving a student in the school has been submitted to the relevant health board. In the interest of protecting the anonymity of the child, no details of the report should be disclosed to the Board of Management unless there are issues which need to be addressed directly by the Board.
Dealing with disclosures from children
An abused child is likely to be under severe emotional stress and a member of staff may be the only adult whom the child is prepared to trust. Great care should be taken not to damage that trust.
When information is offered in confidence, the member of staff will need tact and sensitivity in responding to the disclosure. The member of staff will need to reassure the child, and endeavour to retain his or her trust, while explaining the need for action which will necessarily involve other adults being informed. It is important to tell the child that everything possible will be done to protect and support him/her, but not to make promises that cannot be kept e.g. promising not to tell anyone else.
Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures for Post-Primary Schools page 13
16 Children First – section 4.3.2
17 Children First – section 4.3.3
While the basis for concern must be established as comprehensively as possible, the following advice is offered to school personnel to whom a child makes a disclosure of abuse:
It is important to deal with any allegation of abuse in a sensitive and competent way through listening to and facilitating the child to tell about the problem, rather than interviewing the child about details of what happened;
a) It is important to stay calm and not to show any extreme reaction to what the child is saying. Listen compassionately and take what the child is saying seriously;
b) It should be understood that the child has decided to tell about something very important and has taken a risk to do so. The experience of telling should be a positive one so that the child will not mind talking to those involved;
c) The child should understand that it is not possible that any information will be kept a secret;
d) No judgmental statement should be made about the person against whom the allegation is made;
e) The child should not be questioned unless the nature of what s/he is saying is unclear. Leading questions should be avoided. Open, non-specific questions should be used such as “Can you explain to me what you mean by that?”;
f) The child should be given some indication of what would happen next , such as informing the Designated Liaison Person, parents/carers, health board or possibly An Garda Síochana. It should be kept in mind that the child may have been threatened and may feel vulnerable at this stage.
g) Record the disclosure immediately afterwards using, as far as possible, the child’s own words.
The duty of the recipient of such information is to report it to the Designated Liaison Person as outlined in Chapter 4 of these guidelines. It must always be remembered that school personnel have a supportive, not an investigative role.
When child abuse is suspected, it is essential to have a written record of all theinformation available. Personnel should note carefully what they have observed andwhen they observed it. Signs of physical injury should be described in detail and, ifappropriate, sketched. Any comment by the child concerned, or by any otherperson, about how an injury occurred should be recorded, preferably quoting wordsactually used, as soon as possible after the comment has been made. The record ofthe discussion should be signed and dated and given to and retained by theDesignated Liaison Person.
All records created should be regarded as highly confidential and placed in a secure location by the Designated Liaison Person. (Note section 1.6 of these guidelines with regard to the Data Protection Acts)
It is possible that school personnel may subsequently be invited to attend a child protection conference by the appropriate health board. Please consult Paragraph 4.4 of these guidelines for further information on child protection conferences. page 14 Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures for Post-Primary Schools “Code of Ethics & Good Practice for Children’s Sport” – Irish Sports Council and the Sports Council of Northern Ireland.
How to handle disclosure.
The role of the teacher is to pass on information only through the correct channel.
- Don’t ask leading questions
- Offer reassurances but make no promises
- Allow time to talk
- Don’t over-react
- Explain further action
- Record (on Record Form) while it is fresh on your mind
- Get advice
- NEXT – Follow the “Child Protection Guidelines”
These Procedures are as follows:
Procedures re: Child Protection on Disclosures or Concerns
- Teacher – fills in school referral form (CPP) – in guidelines.
- Tells the Principal – DLP=Designated Liaison Person. The DLP completes the standard referral form for the Health Board.
- DLP refers to Health Board – Duty Social Worker.
- DLP – tells Chairperson a referral is being made.
- DLP informs parents re. referral if safe to do so.
- DLP records all data re. interview with parents/ referral records etc which are held confidentially in the DLP’s office.
- DLP and class teacher keep all records of these children. Use code rather than name.
If in doubt re. a case the DLP tells Health Board – “ I am seeking consultation on the following matter” and gives no name or address.
- Get a commitment from the Health Board when feedback will be coming re. case when presented.
- If Health Board is not proceeding with the case – Health Board must write back to school DLP and the staff member who originally referred the case.
- If a teacher is asked to attend a case conference the Chairperson must find out from the Health Board if a teacher really needs to attend the case conference and if required to do so the Board will put a substitute in place.
- If a school employee is accused of abuse, it is important to note that there are two procedures to be followed:
a) the reporting procedure in respect of the allegation.
b) the procedure for dealing with the employee.
In a school context, the B.O.M. is the Employer. Empolyers should also be aware of and comply with employment legislation and any other employee relations policies, such as agreed grievances and disciplinary procedures.
In general the same person should not have responsibility for dealing with the reporting issue and the employment issue.|The Designated Liaison Person is responsible for reporting the matter to the appropriate health board while the Employer is responsible for addressing the employment issues. However, where the allegation of abuse is against the Designated Liaison Person, the Employer should assume the responsibility for reporting the matter to the health board. The Chairperson must report to the Board if an allegation has been made against a staff member. All procedures as outlined in Chapter 5 (Child Protection Guidelines) attached to be followed.
PROCEDURES TO FOLLOW DUE TO DIRECT DISCLOSURE OR REASONABLE CAUSE FOR CONCERN
Staff Member goes to Designated Liaison Person (DLP) this is normally expected to be School Principal, and in our school the DLP’s are Mr Dan O’ Leary ( Principal) & Ms Bernadette Sweeney ( Deputy Principal). If the DLP is absent, in an emergency, the staff member goes to whoever is deputising, i.e. The Deputy DLP.
The DLP contacts the HEALTH BOARD.
The DLP also informs the Parents/Guardians, unless if to do so would endanger the child.
The Chairperson of the B.O.M. is also informed.
A standard yellow referral form is sent to the Health Board.
In urgent cases, the DLP, may phone the Health Board to begin. This is followed by referral form.
Schools are entitled to feedback from the Health Board. If the Health Board cannot be contacted, then the Gardai have statutory obligations and may be contacted. Again, record keeping is vital. You may give your notes to the DLP, but good practice suggests staff member keep a copy of his/her own.
WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU ARE NOT SURE?
Accurate record keeping is very important. Confidentiality is essential. Record what you observe, but do not assume to diagnose, as we are not medical experts. The DLP may consult the Health Board for advice. Do Not give the child’s name and details in this case. Follow their advice.
HOW DO WE PROTECT OURSELVES?
- Follow the Child Protection Guidelines
- Maintain confidentiality i.e. consult correctly.
- School procedures to be agreed for all staff in certain situations.
In the following situations:
- Toilet accident.
- Swimming and supervising school teams.
- Bringing a sick child home.
- Administering First Aid – especially cuts in awkward places.
N.B Two adults are required to be present for above (1-4)
- A child hugging a staff member.
N.B Deal with respect and move the situation along.
- Working with pupils on their own.
N.B. Leave door ajar or pupil brought to central location.
Other considerations to be taken into account by all Scoil Eoin / Coláiste Eoin staff.
Physical contact between school personnel and the child should always be in response to the needs of the child and not the needs of the adult. While physical contact may be used to comfort, reassure or assist a child,
- The following should be factors in determining it’s appropriateness;-
- It is acceptable to the child
- It is open and not secretive
- The age and development stage of the child
School personnel should avoid doing anything of a personal nature for children that they can do for themselves.
School personnel should never engage in or allow:
The use of inappropriate language or behaviours; physical punishment of any kind; sexually provocative games or sexually suggestive comments about or to a child; the use of sexually explicit or pornographic material.
All media products (CDs, DVDs etc.) should be checked for their appropriateness with regard to age and suitability.
Visitors / Guest Speakers:
Visitors / Guest Speakers should never be left alone with pupils. The school (Principal/Deputy Principal & Teachers) have a responsibility to check out the credentials of the visitor/speaker and to ensure that the material in use by guests is appropriate.
Clean underwear and suitable clothing will be kept in the school so that if a pupil has an ‘accident’ of this nature they will in the first instance be offered fresh clothing into which they can change.
If the pupil for whatever reason cannot clean or change themselves and the parents/ guardians cannot be contacted the child will be assisted by members of staff familiar to the child. In all such situations, two members of staff should be present. Parents will be notified of such incidents.
It is the policy in the school that one to one teaching is often in the best interest of the child. Every effort will be made to ensure that this teaching takes place in an open environment. Parents of children who are to be involved in one-to-one will be informed and their agreement sought. Work being carried out by special needs assistants will be carried out under the direction of the class teacher in an open environment.
Changing for Games/PE/Swimming
Pupils will be expected to dress and undress themselves for games/PE/swimming. Where assistance is needed this will be done in the communal areas and with the consent of the parents. Under no circumstances will members of staff/volunteers be expected to or allowed to dress/undress a child in a cubicle/private area. In such situations where privacy is required the parent/guardian of the child will be asked to assist the child.
At all times there must be adequate supervision of pupils.
Allegations or Suspicions of Child Abuse by School Employees
The most important consideration to be taken into account by the Board of Management is the protection of children and their safety and well being must be a priority. However, the Board of Management has duties in respect to school employees also.
The following is a summarised version of procedures to be implemented in the event of a pupil making an allegation against an employee. It is incumbent on the Employer (the B.O.M.) to familiarise themselves with the full text as outlined in the Guidelines attached. (Chapter 5: Allegations or Suspicions of child abuse by school employees)
D.L.P acts according to previous procedures as already outlined in reporting the incident. The chairperson of the B.O.M. acting in consultation with the Board is responsible for addressing the employment issue except when the allegations of abuse is against the D.L.P., the chairperson of the B.O.M will assume the responsibility for reporting the matter to the health board.
There may be erroneous or malicious allegations against employees and the Board will deal sensitively and fairly with the alleged person.
The chairperson has to inform the employee:
1. The fact that an allegation has been made against him/her.
2. The nature of the allegation.
3. Whether or not the matter has been reported to the appropriate health board by the D.L.P.
4.The employee has an opportunity to respond. This response is
forwarded to the health board.
The B.O.M. will continue to follow the guidelines as outlined in “Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures”
Confidentiality, discretion and sensitivity will be maintained at all times.
Links to other Policy/Planning areas:
Prevention: SPHE curriculum, Strand Unit on “Safety and Protection”
The School Code of Discipline & RSE
Social Education LCA
Procedures: Code of Behaviour
Health & Safety Statement
Practice: Swimming Policy
IT – Acceptable use policy.
Review and Monitoring
This policy will be monitored and reviewed by the Board of Management on an annual basis and when the need arises. The Board of Management will ensure that adequate training and support is provided for all staff.