National Child Protection Week 2-8 September
National Child Protection Week 2-8 September
This week is National Child Protection Week (2-8 September), an opportunity for people to think about the best ways to keep children safe and free from harm.
We interviewed the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) National Manager for Child Safe Organisations Sammy Bruderer to learn how early childhood services can protect young children from abuse and harm.
What are consequences of child abuse for very young children?
There is a significant human and financial cost of child abuse and neglect. The recent research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) indicates an on going rise in child protection matters, with 1 in 32 children receiving child protection services across Australia between 2016 and 2017.
When a child experiences abuse or neglect, especially at a young age, it can impact their foundations for healthy development. Given this, they can have trouble reaching their developmental milestones, forming healthy relationships and regulating their emotions. If abuse occurs and a child is not supported by safe and trusted adults, they are at a higher risk of having long lasting impacts through their adult life.
It's much better for everyone - individuals, families and the broader community - if we stop child abuse and neglect from happening in the first place. The good news is, child abuse is not inevitable, it's preventable. Everyone can play their part to support families and create child safe and friendly environments.
Which states and territories in Australia require early childhood educators and carers to report suspected cases of child abuse?
Unfortunately, there is no nationally consistent legislation regarding mandatory reporting. For example, in Queensland ECEC professionals recently became mandatory reporters for physical and sexual abuse. In the Northern Territory anyone over 18 is considered a mandatory reporter. However, in Victoria only kindergarten teachers are considered mandatory reporters. This can be confusing, so it's important to be aware of your relevant State and Territory requirements. It's also good to be aware of your organisation's child protection policies and procedures, as while you may not be a mandatory reporter by law, your organisation might require you to report suspected cases of abuse and neglect.
Children thrive when their families are well supported and their whole community is looking out for them. Ideally we want to create a community where everyone is looking out for the safety and wellbeing of all children, and where all citizens are willing to speak out to help children, regardless of their job or legal obligations. Importantly, this means supporting families before things become a crisis.
How can early childhood educators and carers identify abuse?
Indicators of child abuse and neglect can present in various ways. It's important to get regular training and information regarding early warning signs and best ways to support children and families. Professional development workshops such as NAPCAN's Mandatory Reporting/Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention or Child Safe Organisations, is a great way to start.
However, it's important to keep child protection at the forefront of our minds. Having on going informal discussions is a great way to do this. In addition, including child wellbeing as an on going agenda item at staff meeting or having people take turns researching and presenting findings back on particular topics is a great way to keep the conversation going.
Children are safest when they are surrounded by a team of trusted adults. The more we engage children and families in our centres, the better we are able to identify early warning signs and support families before abuse occurs.
What should educators do if they suspect a child is being mistreated or abused?
It's always good to seek advice if you suspect a child is being mistreated or abused, especially if you're not sure what to do. You can talk to a supervisor or contact a local specialised service for advice. Many States and Territories have set up services where you can call to discuss a concern, and they can help determine the best response. There are also decision-making guides available from State and Territory child protection services which can assist to determine reporting pathways. For example, Queensland has the QLD Child Protection Guide and New South Wales has the Mandatory Reporter Guide. Contacts, guides and resources are usually available on the State/Territories child protection services websites.
It's important to note that mandatory reporting is only one piece of the puzzle to protecting children. By the time we reach this level of intervention, children have often already experienced a number of negative effects. We know that the only way to truly keep children safe and help them thrive is to stop the abuse before it occurs. Research tells us that building strong connected communities is a protective factor against abuse and neglect and essential to helping children thrive. Early childhood educators play an important part of a child's community and can make a huge difference is a child's life, especially when a family is having a tough time.
What can educators do to support families and prevent child abuse and neglect?
Child abuse and neglect is a complex issue, however we don't always need a complex solution. Small actions every day can make a big difference in a child and family's life. Tips include:
- Make your influence positive: Educators play a significant role in a child's life during the crucial early developmental stages. Sharing your knowledge with families about strategies to enhance child development, supports families to help their children's wellbeing. Being kind, supportive and non-judgmental helps create trusting relationships and inclusive environments where families and children can feel safe and thrive.
- Be a good role model to children: Children learn important lessons and skills from watching adults. Being patient, respectful and empathetic helps children feel safe and teaches them valuable life skills.
- Engage with children by talking, listening, spending time with them and noticing the big and small achievements and struggles: Encourage children to share their ideas, successes and concerns. Include children in decisions that affect them. This can include the small things such as day-to-day tasks/activities, room set up etc. Children who feel valued and listened to, find it easier to form positive and trusting relationships with adults. It also helps build their self-confidence and worth as well as build a positive self-image.
- Learn about support and child/family friendly events and activities available in your local community: Families function best when they have the support they need. Children also thrive in friendly connected communities where they are seen and welcomed.
- Take reports of abuse and concerns for wellbeing seriously: Always look out for signs of abuse. If you suspect something is wrong and are not sure what to do, seek advice from an expert. Remember that early indicators of a family struggling can also be an opportunity to support and prevent abuse from occurring. We all have a part to play in protecting children and supporting families.
What resources are available to support the early childhood sector and how can educators get involved?
National Child Protection Week (2-8 September 2018) is a great opportunity to come together and promote the safety and wellbeing of children. It’s simple to get involved. You can:
- Display National Child Protection Week posters in a prominent place
- Plan or attend an event for National Child Protection Week. An event can be anything from a display, morning tea, forum, fundraiser, children's activity or family day: view or register events on our website
- Download National Child Protection Week Logos, images and other resources from website
- Tell your family, friends and colleagues about National Child Protection Week. Include an article in your newsletter, mention it at a staff meeting, or share a social media post
- Like us on Facebook at and follow us on twitter and promote #ncpw and #playyourpart
- For more information and free resources, visit our website www.napcan.org.au, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (02) 8073 3300. If you are not already on our mailing list please subscribe via the sign-up form at the bottom of our website
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This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Thursday, 30 January 2020
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