How to deal with cases of child protection

When children are supported and monitored by Children’s’ Social Services, this can be for a myriad of reasons, ranging from abuse, exposure to domestic violence, criminal exploitation, child sexual exploitation and much more. The most common reason we tend to see is neglect.

Neglect itself comes in many different forms but it can have profound effects on the children in the family.

To be clear – the vast majority of parents love their children. But in some cases, parents are unable to keep their children safe or provide for them so they thrive and are safeguarded by those who are supposed to be in charge.

When we talk about neglect, this can be physical or emotional. In order to thrive, children don’t just need to be fed and clothed, educated and protected from harm. They also need to feel loved, be cared for, spoken to, nurtured and emotionally developed.

Some parents are unable to keep their children from harm as they may have mental health problems, are preoccupied by domestic violence, afflicted by substance abuse, have physical disabilities that prevent them from caring for their children adequately or simply do not have the understanding or parental skills it takes to raise children, keep them safe and nurture them.

Many children we see in alternative provision and pupil referral units are beyond parental control, a process which started from when the children were very young.

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When parents find themselves unable to parent their children effectively, they can display highly risky behaviours by the time they become teenagers.

Trying to get a 15-year-old to confirm when they have been left to their own devices for most of their childhood is a pretty difficult thing to do. All agencies involved can do is to minimise risk and educate the parent and the child as much as possible to prevent them from further harm.

Some of the most common issues we see when it comes to physical neglect are things like children not having access to food in the home and having to rely on school feeding them.

We also frequently buy students new clothing, from shoes to winter coats, if parents are non-responsive when we raise concerns about inadequate clothing or are claiming that their child is refusing to come to school because their shoes are broken.

Many of our students also live in unacceptable housing conditions, such as severe overcrowding, no bedding or sheets or furniture, which means many prefer t spend their time outside with friends or people who don’t have their best interested at heart.

We also often come across parents who don’t take their child to see the GP, the dentist or the optometrist. Parents also sometimes don’t take their child to A&E if they had an injury or an accident. All our key workers have taken some of their key students to various medical appointments at one point or another.

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Sometimes parents fail to report their children missing or don’t show any interest in where their child has been whilst they were away.

We also see parents who know that their children are abusing drugs or alcohol but are unable to put strategies in place to manage their behaviours, which often escalate very quickly.

We often also see emotional neglect in families, which has the same causes as physical neglect but can be willful and cruel.

The most common ways parents are emotionally neglectful towards their children is when they show their children no warmth, love or care. The child is ignored, excluded, side-lined from conversations or any parental interaction and the child is made to feel unloved, a perpetual burden to the parent’s lifestyle or goals. Children who have experienced this kind of neglect either withdraw and become sad or – this is when they usually get excluded from their mainstream education, act out in protest to the neglect they’re experiencing.

Either way, addressing and remedying a family situation when it has come this far is incredibly difficult.

Behaviours are entrenched and hard to shift and all social workers and school can do are to try and manage escalating behaviours and keep children safe whilst allowing them to remain with their families.

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About our Community Expert

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Astrid Schön
Community Expert

With 15 years of experience in mainstream schools and over four years in alternative provision, Astrid has worked with the most able as well as the most disadvantaged students in London.

She is currently the Deputy Head at London East AP, the pupil referral unit in Tower Hamlets, one of the largest in the UK, leading on many teaching and learning initiatives to address underachievement of students in both mainstream and AP. Astrid also leads on curriculum development, assessment and strategic development of the pupil referral unit.

Classroom zen: Yoga for mind-body well-being

I have been working with Opogo to launch the #TeachFit initiative since September 2017. Our reasoning behind developing this programme was that we were seeing a real lack of opportunity within many schools across the country of children being exposed to health and wellbeing.

 

As adults aware of the rising growth within the fitness industry, we now understand how important this is; from sleeping well, to working out to getting our head-space. It is becoming more apparent that kids are just not privy to this whatsoever and, if they are, it is only through limited access and availability within many private schools.

With all of this in mind, we wanted to introduce Teach Fit into schools, either perhaps taking over PE lessons completely, by slotting out time for yoga within their regular lessons. Some schools have already taken this initiative after the Head Teacher had noticed just how important wellness has become. I’m incredibly proud to say that since the launch in September, we have managed to teach over 1000 children yoga, and it has since been thriving.

We have been teaching predominantly within primary schools but have also been lucky enough to be able to teach every year group from reception to year 6. What makes it so special is seeing how the children really start to gain an understanding of Yoga throughout the six weeks, from recognition and repetition of certain postures and techniques that we use within the class.

 

“What makes it so special is seeing how the children really start to gain an understanding of Yoga”

 

One of the core principles of Teach Fit is ensuring that the program is still fun for the children and that they feel stimulated and inspired. We begin each class by creating a relaxing ambience and reminding the children that they need to be calm and quiet. I get the children to repeat this to me each week before we begin our seated warm up, and believe me it doesn’t last long until the children are a bit wild! In all honesty, I absolutely love it because all the children are so unique and I get to see all of their personalities shine in those 30-minute sessions.

More often than not no two children are doing the same thing at the same time, and so I ensure that, through yoga, they can act both as a team and individually. The main lesson plan gives them a chance to try some really nice breathing techniques, postures, warm-ups, balances, and it’s the balances that you really see a difference in the kids. They learn how to concentrate, they’re silent, they’re either holding on to each other or perhaps individually.

We also work as a team where we’ll have a whole row holding hands with each other as they balance, and then we’ll get them to do it by themselves. I also get them to switch people that they are with, which are usually their best friends, to really show how they can build as a team, and as an individual, through yoga.

To keep them interested, we take yoga back to how relatable it is to sports, for example, for the boys, we tell them that a lot of footballers actually do yoga. For example, David Beckham is famous for doing yoga. Teach Fit is not about trying to keep the kids calm and quiet the whole class, because they’ll become bored and disengaged. It’s about showing them that these elements of yoga can be fun, completely different to anything that they do within the schools, as well as being applicable to anything they’re doing in school.