Responding to concerns

It is vital that you respond to and talk with the child or adult who tells you something is the matter or you see something wrong. You should not ask too many, or leading questions, but should find out enough information to make a good referral. The list below will help you. It will not be enough to telephone ‘you noticed a bruise’ for example.

In the event of actual injury, ensure the child gets any urgently required medical treatment. Otherwise spend time talking to the child to find out what has happened, to reassure them and to comfort them.

How to do it

If a child tells you that they have been abused or you think they may have been you should try to establish the basic facts before making a referral. The initial fact finding should not influence what the child says.

As much of the following information as possible should be gathered before making a referral:

      • What you are concerned about
      • What the child has said
      • If it is believed that the child is in imminent danger
      • If there are any other children who may also be at risk
      • Name, designation and name of agency (along with contact details) of the person making the referral
      • The child’s full name, age, date of birth and address (if available)
      • Any adults who have care of the child
      • Who it is thought may have harmed the child or may pose a risk to them, why this is so, and when it may have happened. Where is relevant in case a scene of crime examination needs to be carried out and it can be established if it has happened at a place that would concern us – known drug user’s house/sex offender’s home
      • The name of the person receiving the referral should always be requested and a record of this kept.

It will help if you consider:

      • why you think the time is right to discuss the matter with Social Work Services
      • what information you can give them about
      • the child’s developmental need
      • parenting capacity
      • social and environmental factors
      • how you will remain involved with the family
      • how you can help to introduce a social worker to the family, for example by a joint visit
      • what you want Social Services to do.

It is important that you make your referral as soon as you have decided that this is the best course of action.

Avoid “how” and “why” questions.

To establish Do ask Don’t ask
What What happened? Did she or he..?
Where happened Where did it? Did it happen in the bedroom?
Who Who did it? Did the baby-sitter do it?
When When did it happen? Did it happen last night?