Child Protection Policy

Introduction and Aims

The Department of Education and Science has introduced guidelines and procedures for in relation to Child protection and Welfare. The intention of the Department is to assist and give direction and guidance to school personnel in protecting children and dealing with allegations/suspicions of child abuse. In St Damian's these guidelines will be used to promote the welfare of all pupils. This document takes account of the provisions of the following pieces of legislation. "The Education Act 1998" and "The Child Welfare Act 2000".

Designated Liaison person (DLP)

The Principal, Aodh O Connor, will act as DLP. The Deputy Principal shall act as DLP in the absence of the Principal. The DLP will represent the school in dealings with Health Boards, an Garda Síochána and other parties in connection with allegations of abuse. Further information on the responsibilities of the DLP is included in "Child Protection DES" (page 8 – section 2.2). Action to be taken, the DLP in cases where there are reasonable grounds for suspicion or where an allegation has been made are in "Child Protection DES" (chapter 3 – section 3.2 page 11-12).

The name of the DLP (Designated Liaison Person) is displayed in the main entrance to the school. The DLP shall also inform the BOM of cases where the DLP sought advice from the HSE and as a result of this advice, no report was made. These cases should be recorded at Board of Management meetings.

Confidentiality

All information regarding concerns of possible child abuse should only be shared on a need to know basis in the interest of the child. Giving information to those who need to have that information for the protection of a child who may have been or has been abused, is not a breach of confidentiality.

The DLP who is submitting a report to the Health Board or an Garda Síochána should inform a parent/guardian unless doing so is likely to endanger the child or place that child at further risk. A decision not to inform a parent/guardian should be briefly recorded together with the reasons for not doing so.

In emergency situations, where the Health Board cannot be contacted, and the child appears to be at immediate and serious risk, an Garda Síochána should be contacted immediately. A child should not be left in a dangerous situation pending Health Board intervention.

Protect for persons reporting Child Abuse

The Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998, provides immunity from civil liability to any person who reports child abuse "reasonably and in good faith" to the designated officers of the Health Board or any member of An Garda Síochána. This means that even if a reported suspicion of child abuse proves unfounded, a plaintiff who took an action would have to prove that the reporter had not acted reasonably and in good faith making the report. This section is covered in Child Protection DES book page 6. While the legal protection outlined above only applies to reports made to the appropriate authorities, Common Law qualified privilege continues to apply as heretofore. Consequently, should a Board of Management member or school personnel furnish information with regard to suspicions of child abuse to the DLP or the Board of Management Chairman, such communication would be regarded under Common Law as having qualified privilege.

Freedom of Information Act 1997

Reports made to Health Boards may be subject to provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 1997, which enables members of the public to obtain access to personal information relating to them which is in the possession of public bodies. However the act also provides that public bodies may refuse access to information obtained by them in confidence.

Different forms of Child Abuse

Physical Abuse: Where a child is assaulted or injured in some way that is deliberate- i.e. bruises, fractures, burns, lacerations, damage to body organs and failure to thrive.

Sexual Abuse:

  1. Non contact (offensive sexual remarks, obscene phone calls, exposure, vulgarism)
  2. Contact: touching
  3. Oral: genital sexual abuse
  4. Penetrative sexual abuse
  5. Sexual exploitation.

Neglect: Where a child's needs for food, warmth, shelter, nuturance and safety are not provided to the extent that the child suffers significant harm, i.e. abandonment, left alone persistently, malnourishment, persistent failure to attend school, medical problems not attended to adequately, e.g. where a child's hair is not attended, to treat lice over a period of time.

Emotional Abuse: Where a child's needs for affection, approval and security are not being met and have not been met for some time by parent/carer.

A child may be subjected to more than one form of abuse at any given time. Definitions are detailed in "Children First" chapter 3, section .32 pages 31-33.

Guidelines for Recognition of Child Abuse

A list of child abuse indicators is contained in Appendix 1, "Children First" (page 125-131). It is important to stress that, no one indicator should be seen as conclusive in itself of abuse; it may indicate conditions other than child abuse. All signs and symptoms must be examined in the total context of the child's situation and family circumstances. There are commonly three stages in the identification of child abuse.

These are:

  1. Considering the possibility
  2. Looking out for signs of abuse
  3. Recording of information

Each of these stages is developed in "Children First" (page 34-35 section 3.9)
A copy of this book is in the Principal's office.

Handling Disclosures from Children

This is dealt within "Child Protection" (page 9, section 2.4) When information is offered in confidence the member of staff will need tact and sensitivity in responding to the disclosure. The member of staff will need to reassure the child, and retain his/her trust, while explaining the need for action and the possible consequences, which will necessarily involve other adults being informed. It is important to tell the child that everything possible will be done to protect and support him/her but not to make promises that cannot be kept e.g. promising not to tell anyone else.

The following advice is offered to school personnel to whom a child makes a disclosure of abuse:

  • Listen to the child
  • Take all disclosures seriously
  • Do not ask leading questions or make suggestions to the child
  • Offer reassurance but do not make promises
  • Do not stop a child a child recalling significant events
  • Do not over react
  • Inform DLP if you have a reasonable suspicion or reasonable grounds for concern that a child is at risk or has suffered abuse, the DLP should contact the Health Board doe advice
  • Explain that further help may have to be sought
  • Record the discussion accurately and retain the record (use child's registration number not child's name)
  • Sketch signs of physical injury if appropriate
  • Retain records for a period of 21 years
This information should then be passed onto the DLP.

The following should also be reported to the DLP

  • An account from a person who saw a child being abused
  • Injury consistent with abuse
  • Dysfunctional behaviour
  • Implausible explanations for injury or behaviour
  • Consistent evidence over a period of time that a child is being emotionally or physically neglected

Reporting procedures for DLP (normally the Principal)

  • The DLP receives report of child protection concern.
  • DLP records the report-date/time/context.
  • Child’s registration number is used for recording purposes.
  • DLP makes the decision on how to proceed based on information received.
  • DLP informs Chairperson of BOM that initial contact is being made with Health Board.
  • DLP makes contact with the Health Board seeking advice (Do not give name of child at this point – be very clear that you are seeking advice). Take name of the person you spoke to and record conversation.
  • Duty Social Worker makes recommendation. This may involve school continuing to monitor the situation. Record this decision and send written record of this decision to Health Board. Alternatively a formal referral made on standard reporting form may be recommended by social worker (keep a copy on file in a secure place).
  • If Health Board not available and case warrants immediate response – Gardai are informed.
  • Decision made on informing/not informing parents – taking safety of the child into consideration as number one priority. A decision NOT to inform parent/s should only be made were there is a genuine concern for the safety of the child. Be transparent with parent/s and ensure that they are aware that you have a non-negotiable responsibility as DLP to act in the best interest of the child (refer to "Children First").
  • If DLP decides not to contact Health Board in relation to the case – the person who made original report must be informed in writing.
  • Continued monitoring of child should be recommended.
  • Child protection concerns that have been reported to the Health Board should be included in the Principal's report to the Board of Management meeting - Child'’s name is not used.

Important telephone numbers

Chairperson of Board of Management: 086 83 51 102

Health Board: 01 46 86 289 (Duty Social Worker)

Health Board Response

  • School is asked to monitor situation.
  • Formal report is requested, sent by DLP and on receipt case is allocated to Social Worker.
  • Preliminary enquiry-screening process.
  • Initial assessment.

Possible outcomes

  • Case closed
  • Family Support
  • Child Protection plan (usually following a case conference)

If the reporting person or the member of the school staff and the DLP are satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for suspicion/allegation, the procedures for reporting as laid out in “Children First” – section 4.4 page 38 will be adhered to. Standardised reporting forms may be photocopies from "Children First" Appendix 8 page 159.

The Chairman of the Board of Management will be informed before the DLP makes contact with the relevant authorities unless the situation demands that more immediate action to be taken for the safety of the child in which case the Chairman may be informed after the report has been submitted. Details of what should be included in the report are outlined in "Children First" – section 4.5.1 (page 39).

Any professional who suspects child abuse should inform parents/carers if a report is to be submitted to the Health Board or an Garda Síochána unless doing so is likely to endanger the child. In cases of emergency , where a child appears to be at immediate risk, and a duty social worker is unavailable, Garda Síochána should be contacted. Under NO circumstances should a child be left in a dangerous situation pending Health Board intervention.

Allegations or Suspicions re: School Employees

The most important consideration for the Chairperson, Board of Management or the DLP is the safety and protection of the child. However employees also have a right to protection against claims, which are false or malicious.

As employers, the Board of Management should always seek legal advice as the circumstances can vary from one to another. There are two procedures to be followed (section 4.1.3 page 15 "Child Protection")

  1. The reporting procedure
  2. The procedure for dealing with the employee

The DLP has responsibility for reporting the matter to the Health Board. The Chairperson, Board of Management has responsibility, acting in consultation with his/her board, for addressing the employment issues. If the allegation is against the DLP, the Board of Management Chairperson will assume the responsibility for reporting the matter to the Health Board.

Reporting

When an allegation of abuse is made against a school employee, the DLP should immediately act in accordance with the procedures outlined in Chapter 3, section 3.2 page 11 – "Child Protection" will then be followed.

The employee, the Chairperson and DLP should make the employee aware privately.

  1. An allegation has been made against him/her
  2. The nature of the allegation
  3. Whether or not the Health Board or Garda has been/will be/must be/ should be informed.

Management and regard to be had to this advice

Board of Management

The Chairperson should inform the Board of Management of all the details and remind the members of their serious responsibility to maintain strict confidentially on all matters relating to the issue and the principals of due process and natural justice.

Records

All records kept in the school will be kept in the "Strong Room" in the Principal's Office.

Implementation Date: The implementation date for this policy will be April 2012.

Time table for review: The Policy will be reviewed by December 2012. Reviewed 2012. Next Review June 2015.

Ratification and Communication: The policy was ratified by the Board of Management at its meeting in April 2012. Parents may obtain a copy of this plan from the Parents Association or it may be viewed at the school on appointment with the Principal.