A child may decide to disclose to a practitioner that they;
It is important to recognise that children may ‘tell’:
through their behaviour.
The way in which the practitioner responds to these initial disclosures determines whether the child continues to describe what has happened to them or shuts down and retracts anything they may already have said.
As these accounts can prove crucial in legal proceedings the way in which practitioners manage them is important.
It is essential to:
ask all the normal questions you would ask to determine if there is a safeguarding risk such as:
listen and observe;
it is vitally important that as soon as possible the practitioner records what has been said to them as this may be the first and only account available to the police;
keep an open mind about what you see and hear.
explain to the child any actions to be taken in a way that is appropriate to their age and understanding;
do not promise to keep what you have been told secret or confidential as practitioners have a duty to disclose information to social services and in some cases the police;
remember reporting concerns is not a betrayal of trust.
Example: A child in a nursery is playing in the home corner. She starts shouting and throwing one of the dolls about saying ‘you are bad and need a beating’. The practitioner goes over to the child_ [in order to keep the child and others safe] _and comments on what she has observed. The child says that mummy doll has been naughty, and daddy is ‘teaching her a lesson’. Once again, the practitioner notices, observes and reflects back using the child’s own words: ‘daddy doll is teaching mummy doll a lesson’. The child responds: ‘yes that is what my daddy does to mummy’. The practitioner reflects back again: ‘that is what daddy does to mummy’. The child responds: ‘yes he hurts her bad and she is in hospital’.
Through the exchange the practitioner just listens and observes reflecting back what the child has said. Therefore, keeps an open mind and avoids contaminating evidence.