What to do if you are worried

What should I do if I am worried that a child is being harmed?

Having recognised that a child may be suffering from harm, or being worried that a child is being harmed, would you know what to do?

Responding effectively is not always easy. There are many reasons why we might not notice that a child is being harmed. We might think that such things would never happen in “my” church, you might know the child’s family and would think that they “would never do such a thing”

Even if you do recognise that something is wrong, you may be uncertain as to what you should do. You could be worried about what might happen to the family, the child and even yourself if you were to tell anyone.

Such concerns are not unusual. This section of the course helps you to understand how you can respond effectively to help protect children and young people.

Becoming aware and dealing with a disclosure

Before you are able to take any action, you need to have become aware that there is a problem. Normally this will be either by you hearing or seeing something or being told something that causes you concern.

Alternatively, a child may tell you something that is happening to them that seems to suggest that they are being harmed. This is called a disclosure.

Both of these may occur when you least expect them to. It will be unwelcome and can be very unsettling. How will you respond?

The good news is that there are a small number of things you should do and a few things that you must NOT do.

The following section helps to identify just what you would do if you find yourself in such a situation.

Read each of the following extracts from the policy.

Referral Procedure for those with Responsibility for Children   

Taking Action:

This can be difficult, but remember that your first responsibility must be to the welfare of the child or young person.

If you have become aware of a concern you must pass it to the responsible individual. This will be your parish priest or vicar and/or your local safeguarding co-ordinator. You should also contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor who is able to provide support and advice to you.

If you are concerned that the child is in immediate danger you should contact either the local police or the local social services department.

Do you have the local contact details for the police and social service departments?

What to do including simple flow chart for action.

Three short senarios for you to consider

To help you think about what you would do if you had a concern try the following exercise. You are given three short scenarios that each present you with a question. For each scenario, think about what you have learned already and write down what you think you might do if you were in that situation.

Once you have done this read the model answers given below and think about how your answers compare with them.

Su Foster talks about some important issues for you to consider when you are concerned about the welfare of a child or young person. 

Questions you must answer to complete your training

Please answer the following questions by putting a ring round the correct answer on the answer sheet given to you by your child protection officer. When you have completed all 10 questions return the answer sheet to the officer for marking.

Question 5

It is 9.00 on a Friday night and your youth group has just finished. A young girl stays behind and asks to talk to you. She tells you that one of the male adult leaders keeps wanting to hug her and it is making her very uncomfortable. What do you do?

a. Tell her “it’s Ok; he is just like that but I will talk to him”
b. Tell her you are sure it’s harmless, to laugh it off and not to worry
c. You ask her to tell you what exactly happened, what he said each time and how often
d. Look concerned and tell her that you need to tell the appropriate people about his behaviour, and you will deal with this because it is not right.

Question 6

You are concerned about the welfare of two children in your church. Both children were very bright and lively and enjoyed playing with their friends whilst at church. Recently they have both been very quiet and seem very withdrawn. The youngest child seems to be very upset a lot of the time and her older sister is very protective of her. For the past few weeks they have not been coming into Sunday school as their father wants them to stay with him. The parents of the children are on the PCC and very well known within the congregation. What might you do?

a. Tell yourself that you are imagining things and there will be a good reasons for this
b. Try to talk to the children when the parents are not around
c. Ask the vicar if she has noticed anything and say you are concerned
d. Tell the parents you have noticed that the children are not themselves and ask if anything is wrong

Question 7

Gill is a 15 year old girl in your Sunday school class. You have known her a while and you get on well with her. One day after your class has ended she asks to talk to you. You both sit down at the back of church and Gill asks you to promise not to tell anyone what she is about to tell you. What do you say?

a. Ask Gill to tell you and then decide if you can promise not to say anything
b. Tell Gill that you don’t know what she will tell you, but, if you can, you will keep it to yourself, but you also say that there are some things you must pass on.
c. Promise Gill that you will not say anything to anyone
d. Tell Gill that you cannot promise not to tell anyone and you don’t want to get caught up in being made to promise things.

Question 8

It is 10 o'clock on Sunday morning just before the 10.15 service.
Billy, a young boy who attends your church, has turned up at church and is very upset. When you ask him what is wrong he very reluctantly tells you that his dad came home last night and was very drunk and hit him a number of times. When his mum tried to stop it, his dad also hit her. This morning he is still very drunk, and still shouting at his mum, who is locked in the bathroom. Billy is very worried about going back home. What would you do?

Choose one answer.
a. Ask Billy what he would like you to do
b. Tell Billy that this sometimes does happen, but you are sure that his dad will be fine by the time he goes home
c. Ring the local police or duty social service team and report the conversation you had with Billy
d. Take Billy to the vicar and say that he had better do something
e. Ring the Diocese Safeguarding Advisor

Now go on to the next section, Where to get help