Child protection needs to address all age brackets

I could argue that the University’s findings on child protection tell us what we already know: abused children are still going unnoticed, there are not enough resources to protect them and that there will always be those who fall through the cracks

I could argue that the University’s findings on child protection tell us what we already know: abused children are still going unnoticed, there are not enough resources to protect them and that there will always be those who fall through the cracks. It all looks rather bleak, especially now, when the government is making cuts all round.

Yet, what it tells us to focus on is not the normal image of a small, innocent, child which the national media will instantly draw us to. No, those more at risk from having their maltreatment go undetected are typically teenagers aged 11-17.

When one in five Serious Case Reviews – where maltreatment leads to serious injury or death – involve young people aged 11 and upwards, then suggesting that this age bracket doesn’t need attention as they are “resilient” is simply not enough.

Worryingly, US research has showed that adolescent maltreatment had a “stronger and more prevalent effect on later adjustment” than it did in younger children. Child Protection Professionals argue that the frameworks in place prevent them from referring more young people to agencies. Often they assess that the child will suffer more through strained family relations if the referral is not responded to, than if an appropriate response was taken.

Despite financial and staffing issues, something can be done. Traditional protection frameworks don’t always work for older children whose abuse is more likely to take place outside the home, as the consequence of their growing independence. A child aged 11-17 is more likely to confide in their friends.

Older children need clarification about who to contact when suffering abuse. Even the NSPCC uses younger children in a lot of their adverts, so the message for older children might be misconstrued. An idea could be, perhaps, links on social networking sites? Some have already introduced a button for users to press to report anyone who they suspect is an online predator, as year by year the average age for the use of sites like Facebook gets younger.

When is a child still a child? Different laws and regulations state different ages for different schemes leaving those aged 15 plus at risk. Think of it like this: you can’t vote until you reach the age of 18, but you are no longer a child on public transport after 14. You can join the army at 16, and you can drive a car when you are 17. At what age are you an adult? A universally applicable age needs to be agreed.

One comment

  1. why is there a need for an age to be established? any one with a duty of care to a person, who abuses this, should be punished for negligence in addition to the bodily/mental harm they have done to that person. i think you’re focusing on the wrong issue here, it’s not the framework with which the victim can report it, it’s the society the victim has grown up in.

    i come from an emotionally and physically abusive home. every holiday i go home to endure more and more crap, but i really could not fathom reporting it. age 11-17 you are completely aware of the repercussions, the upheaval your entire family will have to go through, and the likelihood of living out the rest of your days in overstuffed care homes or halfway houses (for the over 16s). with no chance of ever getting into a family unit again, or even really ever having any prospects.

    especially if you’ve grown up with it. at 11+ this behaviour becomes normalised, when i went to uni i was surprised people didn’t yell at you for letting a door drop too hard, or scream at you when the tv went up during ad breaks, etc. it literally becomes an intrinsic part of your being and it changes you, you don’t retaliate any more and really you just change to suit whatever ridiculous rules that person has implemented this time.

    would not be surprised if by that age many have become immune to how bad their situation is, hence why they don’t report it, rather than any ambiguity about laws or ages etc.

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