Advice on what to do when faced with child neglect or abuse are included in new guidelines from NICE. Aimed at social workers and other specialists that support recovering children, the guidelines detail a range of therapies and parenting programmes that should be instigated depending on the type of abuse suffered and the child’s age. Where possible, children and their families should be given a choice of proposed therapies.
NICE encourages staff to listen carefully to children and their families, and to act on their suspicions. Language should be tailored to the child’s level of understanding and drawings could be useful when dealing with very young children.
An example of a proposed therapy is an attachment-based intervention, which focuses on improving the relationships between young people and their parents or carers. This often involves helping the parent or carer respond more sensitively to the child. Child–parent psychotherapy would be proposed when a child has been exposed to domestic violence. Ideally, services should be planned that allow children and their families to work with the same people over time.
The guidelines also include recommendations for senior managers and service providers. It lists the signs that professionals should be aware of, which may suggest abuse or neglect is happening. These include recurring nightmares and children arriving at school unclean and/or injured. Teachers, police officers and other non-medical professionals are advised to act on their suspicions if they think a child is at risk or they suspect abuse or neglect has already taken place. The police should be contacted immediately if a child is deemed to be at immediate risk of harm; otherwise, social services should be contacted.
NICE deputy chief executive, Professor Gillian Leng, said, “This guideline gives clarity on what approaches work best to support children and their families. It brings together the body of research into best practice in child protection for the first time, and will help staff fulfil their statutory duties.”
The guidelines suggest parenting programmes and regular home visits for those parents identified as at risk of abusing or neglecting their child because of drug or alcohol addiction. Practical assistance, such as helping them attend appointments and providing emotional support, should be covered by GPs, social workers or health visitors.