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Children Living Away from Home with Other Families


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Definition
Risks
Protection and Action to be Taken
Issues


Definition

Everywhere children live should provide the same basic safeguards against abuse, founded on an approach that promotes their general welfare, protects them from harm and treats them with dignity and respect.

The National Minimum Standards contain specific requirements on safeguarding and child protection for each particular regulated setting where children live away from home.


Risks

Children living away from home are particularly vulnerable to being abused by adults and peers. Limited and sometimes controlled contact with family and carers may affect a child’s ability to disclose what is happening to them. Given that many young people live away from home because of concerns about their home conditions, it is particularly important that their welfare is protected when they are being cared for by another agency or institution.

All settings must ensure that:

  • Children feel valued and respected and their self-esteem is promoted;
  • There is an openness on the part of the institution to the external world and to external scrutiny, including contact with families and the wider community;
  • Staff and foster carers are trained in all aspects of safeguarding children, are alert to children’s vulnerabilities and risks of harm, and knowledgeable about how to implement safeguarding children procedures;
  • Children are listened to, and their views and concerns responded to;
  • Children have ready access to a trusted adult outside the institution, e.g. a family member, social worker, independent visitor or children’s advocate. Children should be made aware of independent advocacy services, external mentors and Child Line;
  • Staff/carers recognise the importance of ascertaining the wishes and feelings of children and understand how individual children communicate by verbal or non-verbal means.

There are clear procedures for referring safeguarding concerns about a child or young person to the relevant Children’s Service Team.

  • Complaints procedures are clear, effective, and user–friendly and are readily accessible to children and young people including those with disabilities and those for whom English is not their preferred language. Children should genuinely be able to raise concerns and make suggestions for changes and improvements, which should be taken seriously;
  • Bullying is effectively countered; Recruitment and selection procedures are rigorous and create a high threshold of entry to deter abusers and there is effective supervision and support that extends to temporary staff and volunteers;
  • Contracted staff are effectively checked and supervised when on site or in contact with children;
  • Clear procedures and support systems are in place for dealing with expressions of concern by staff and carers about other staff or carers (a Whistle-blowing Policy); Organisations should have a code of conduct, instructing staff on their duty to their employer and their professional obligation to raise legitimate concerns about the conduct of colleagues or managers. There should be a guarantee that procedures can be invoked in ways that do not prejudice the ‘whistle blower’s’ own position and prospects;
  • There is respect for diversity, and sensitivity to race, culture, religion, gender, sexuality and disability;
  • Staff and carers are alert to the risks of harm to children in the external environment from people prepared to exploit the additional vulnerability of children living away from home.

Protection and Action to be Taken

The most important aspect is the need to listen to children to ensure that they have the mechanism for talking about concerns with people that they trust who are prepared to act on the child’s concerns.

Where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, a referral must be made, in accordance with the MASH Enquiries Procedure to Children’s Social Care. The Local Authority for the area in which the child is living has the responsibility to convene a Strategy Discussion/Meeting, which should include representatives from the responsible area that placed the child, if different.

At the Strategy Discussion/Meeting it should be decided which authority should take responsibility for the next steps, which may include an Assessment and an Article 42 Enquiry.

Whether a child is in foster care, privately fostered, in a residential setting, hospital, custody or living in temporary accommodation with their family, the duty to protect is essentially the same. The authority has a duty to undertake an Assessment which may lead to an Article 42 Enquiry where there are concerns about significant harm.


Issues

In some instances the type of accommodation may complicate this process; all draw a wider group of professionals into the matter. Specific issues to consider in different settings are as follows:

Foster Care

Where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child in foster care has suffered, or is likely to suffer Significant Harm in the foster placement, a Strategy Meeting will be held.

In these circumstances, enquiries should consider the safety of any other children living in the household, including the foster carers’ own children, grand-children or any children cared for by the foster carers in their home as well as any children whom the foster carers may be caring for or working with outside their home in a voluntary or paid capacity e.g. teaching, faith or youth work, scouts or many other groups.

As foster care is undertaken in the privacy of the carers’ own home, it is important that children have a voice outside the family. Social Workers are required to see children in foster care on their own and evidence of this should be recorded on the child’s records.

Private Fostering

A private fostering arrangement is essentially one that is made without the involvement of an authority for the care of a child under the age of 16 (under 18 if disabled) by someone other than a parent or close relative for 28 days or more. Privately fostered children are a diverse and sometimes vulnerable group which includes:

  • Children sent from abroad to stay with another family, usually to improve their educational opportunities;
  • Asylum-seeking and refugee children;
  • Teenagers who, having broken ties with their parents, are staying in short–term arrangements with friends or other non-relatives;
  • Children who stay with another family whilst their parents are in hospital, prison or serving overseas in the armed forces;
  • Language students living with host families.

Under the Children (Jersey) Law 2002 sect 59, private foster carers and those with Parental Responsibility are required to notify the authority of their intention to privately foster or to have a child privately fostered, or where a child is privately fostered in an emergency.

Teachers, health and other professionals should notify the authority of a private fostering arrangement that comes to their attention, where they are not satisfied that the arrangement has been or will be notified.

It is the duty of every authority to satisfy itself that the welfare of the children who are privately fostered within their area is being satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted. The authority must also arrange to visit privately fostered children at regular intervals. All arrangements and regulations in relation to Private Fostering are set out in the Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005. Children should be given the contact details of the social worker who will be visiting them while they are being privately fostered.

Children in Residential Settings

Children in such settings are particularly vulnerable and must be listened to.

All such establishments must have in place complaints procedures for children and young people, visiting and contact arrangements with social workers and Independent Visitors (for Looked After children), as well as parents, and advocacy services.

Where there is reasonable cause to believe that a child in a residential setting has suffered or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, a referral must be made to Children’s Social Care in accordance with the MASH Enquiries Procedure. The concerns may be related to bullying, children who exhibit harmful behaviour against other children or allegations about the behaviour of practitioners or volunteers.

Children in Hospital

Children in hospital are vulnerable. The need to be in hospital may cause them to be experiencing any of the following:

  • Acute Stress;
  • Anxiety;
  • Fear;
  • Uncertainty;
  • Pain;
  • Separation from carers;
  • Loss of autonomy and control;
  • Experience communication difficulties.

Children under 16 should not be cared for on an adult ward. Hospital admission data should include the age of children, so that hospitals can monitor whether children are being given appropriate care in appropriate wards.

Hospitals must have policies in place to ensure that their facilities are secure and regularly reviewed.

Any concerns about Significant Harm to a child within a hospital or health-based setting must be referred to the Children’s Social Care in whose area the hospital is located.

When the child has been in hospital for three months or more, the appropriate health/hospital trust must notify the Responsible Authority i.e. the authority for the area where the child is normally resident or, if this is unclear, where the child is Accommodated. This is so that the Island/authority can assess the child’s needs and decide whether services are required under the Children Act 1989.

No child known to Children’s Social Care who is an inpatient in a hospital and about whom there are Child Protection concerns should be discharged home without a Discharge Planning meeting and referral to assess and establish that the home environment is safe, the concerns by medical staff are fully addressed and there is a plan in place for the ongoing promotion and safeguarding of the child’s welfare.

All healthcare workers who work with children and families should be able to:

  • Understand the risk factors and recognise children in need of support and / or safeguarding;
  • Recognise the needs of parents who may need extra help in bringing up their children and know where to refer for help;
  • Recognise the risks of abuse to the unborn child;
  • Contribute to enquiries from other professionals about children and their family or carers;
  • Liaise closely with other agencies, including other health professionals;
  • Assess the needs of children and the capacity of parents / carers to meet their children’s needs, including the needs of children who display sexually harmful behaviour;
  • Plan and respond to the needs of children and their families, particularly those who are vulnerable;
  • Contribute to Child Protection Conferences, family group conferences and Strategy Discussions;
  • Contribute to planning support for children as risk of significant harm, e.g. children living in households with domestic violence or parental substance misuse;
  • Help ensure that children who have been abused and parents under stress (e.g. those who have mental health problems) have access to services to support them;
  • Play an active part, through the Child Protection Plan, in safeguarding children from significant harm;
  • As part of generally safeguarding children and young people. Provide ongoing promotional and preventative support, through proactive work with children, families and expectant mothers;
  • Contribute to serious case reviews and their implementation.

It is essential that all health professionals and their teams have access to advice and support from named and designated child safeguarding professionals and undertake regular safeguarding training and updating. Safeguarding children should be an integral part of the hospital governance system.

Working closely with children and their families means healthcare workers are in a privileged position, developing therapeutic relationships with them. This provides the opportunity to observe parental attitudes and values towards children often seen through parent child interactions and their relationship with the professionals.

All healthcare workers should be able to recognise signs of child abuse and be familiar with their local policies and procedures in such matters. They should receive the training and supervision they need to recognise and act on child welfare concerns and to respond to the needs of children.

Children in Custody

The States of Jersey has the same responsibilities towards children in custody as it does to other children.

Young Offenders Institutions which accommodate Juveniles (16-18) must have policies and procedures in place which set out their duties to safeguard and promote the welfare of the children and young people in their care.

Specific institutions in an area must ensure that there are links in place with the Local Safeguarding Children Board.

There are policies for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children held in secure accommodation at Greenfields. The policies include:

  • Local, establishment-specific child protection and safeguarding policy, agreed with the SGCB, that has regard to the Children’s Service overarching policy and that includes procedures for dealing with incidents or disclosures of child abuse or neglect before or during custody;
  • Suicide and self-harm prevention and anti-bullying strategies;
  • Procedures for dealing proactively, rigorously, fairly and promptly with complaints and formal requests, complemented by an advocacy service;
  • Specialised training for all staff working with children, together with selection, recruitment and vetting procedures to ensure that new staff may work safely and competently with children;
  • Action to manage and develop effective working partnerships with other organisations, including voluntary and community organisations, that can strengthen the support provided to young people and their families during custody and on release;
  • An Assessment, on reception into custody, to identify the needs, abilities and aptitudes of the young person, and the formulation of an individual learning plan designed to address those needs, followed by regular reviews;
  • Provision of education, training and personal development in line the young person’s identified needs;
  • Action to encourage the young person and their family to take an active role in the preparation and subsequent reviews of their plan, so that they are able to contribute to, and influence, what happens to them in secure accommodation and following release.

Language schools

Children who attend language schools in Jersey and are placed with host families for the duration of the course are particularly vulnerable. It is essential that their welfare is protected. The sponsoring agency should have in place child protection policies and procedures, and a robust system for the recruitment and vetting of the host families. This includes DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) and Police checks, Social Care Services checks and references.

Children of Families Living in Temporary Accommodation

It is important that effective systems are in place to ensure that children from homeless families receive services from health and education, social care and welfare support services as well as any other specific services, because with frequent moves they may become disengaged from services. Where a child who needs specific treatment misses appointments due to moves, the problem may become an issue of Significant Harm.

Temporary accommodation, for example bed and breakfast accommodation or women’s refuges, may be a location which is not secure and safe and where other adults are also resident who may pose a risk to the child.

All concerns about the welfare of a child or of Significant Harm to a child should be referred to Children’s Social Care in accordance with the MASH Enquiries Procedure.

End.