Child Abuse, Violence, Abuse, Neglect, Exploitation and Discrimination

Myths and Facts about Child Abuse and Neglect

MYTH #1: It’s only abuse if it’s violent.

Fact: Physical abuse is just one type of child abuse. Neglect and emotional abuse can be just as damaging, and since they are more subtle, others are less likely to intervene.

MYTH #2: Only bad people abuse their children.

Fact: While it’s easy to say that only “bad people” abuse their children, it’s not always so black and white. Not all abusers are intentionally harming their children. Many have been victims of abuse themselves, and don’t know any other way to parent. Others may be struggling with mental health issues or a substance abuse problem.

MYTH #3: Child abuse doesn’t happen in “good” families.

Fact: Child abuse doesn’t only happen in poor families or bad neighbourhoods. It crosses all racial, economic, and cultural lines. Sometimes, families who seem to have it all from the outside are hiding a different story behind closed doors.

MYTH #4: Most child abusers are strangers.

Fact: While abuse by strangers does happen, most abusers are family members or others close to the family.

MYTH #5: Abused children always grow up to be abusers.

Fact: It is true that abused children are more likely to repeat the cycle as adults, unconsciously repeating what they experienced as children. On the other hand, many adult survivors of child abuse have a strong motivation to protect their children against what they went through and become excellent parents.

Warning signs of child abuse and neglect

The earlier child abuse is caught, the better the chance of recovery and appropriate treatment for the child. Child abuse is not always obvious. By learning some of the common warning signs of child abuse and neglect, you can catch the problem as early as possible and get both the child and the abuser the help that they need.

Of course, just because you see a warning sign doesn’t automatically mean a child is being abused. It’s important to dig deeper, looking for a pattern of abusive behavior and warning signs, if you notice something off.

Warning signs of emotional abuse in children

  • Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong.
  • Shows extremes in behaviour (extremely compliant or extremely demanding; extremely passive or extremely aggressive).
  • Doesn’t seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver.
  • Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, throwing tantrums).

Warning signs of physical abuse in children

  • Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts.
  • Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen.
  • Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt.
  • Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home.
  • Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days.

Warning signs of neglect in children

  • Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather.
  • Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor).
  • Untreated illnesses and physical injuries.
  • Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments
  • Is frequently late or missing from school./li>

Warning signs of sexual abuse in children

  • Trouble walking or sitting.
  • Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior.
  • Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.
  • Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.
  • An STD or pregnancy, especially under the age of 14.
  • Runs away from home.

Helping an abused or neglected child

What should you do if you suspect that a child has been abused? How do you approach him or her? Or what if a child comes to you? It’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed and confused in this situation. Child abuse is a difficult subject that can be hard to accept and even harder to talk about.

Just remember, you can make a tremendous difference in the life of an abused child, especially if you take steps to stop the abuse early. When talking with an abused child, the best thing you can provide is calm reassurance and unconditional support. Let your actions speak for you if you’re having trouble finding the words. Remember that talking about the abuse may be very difficult for the child. It’s your job to reassure the child and provide whatever help you can.

Reporting child abuse—anonymously

If you suspect a child is being abused, it’s critical to get them the help he or she needs. Reporting child abuse seems so official. Many people are reluctant to get involved in other families’ lives.

Understanding some of the myths behind reporting may help put your mind at ease if you need to report child abuse.

  • I don’t want to interfere in someone else’s family. The effects of child abuse are lifelong, affecting future relationships, self-esteem, and sadly putting even more children at risk of abuse as the cycle continues. Help break the cycle of child abuse.
  • What if I break up someone’s home? The priority in child protective services is keeping children in the home. A child abuse report does not mean a child is automatically removed from the home – unless the child is clearly in danger. Support such as parenting classes, anger management or other resources may be offered first to parents if safe for the child.
  • They will know it was me who called. Reporting is anonymous. In most places, you do not have to give your name when you report child abuse. The child abuser cannot find out who made the report of child abuse.
  • It won’t make a difference what I have to say. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it is better to be safe than sorry. Even if you don’t see the whole picture, others may have noticed as well, and a pattern can help identify child abuse that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.

When reporting child abuse

Reporting child abuse can bring up a lot of difficult emotions and uncertainty. You may ask yourself if you’re doing the right thing, or question if your voice will even be heard. Here are some tips for communicating effectively in difficult situations:

  • Try to be as specific as you can. For example, instead of saying, “The parents are not dressing their children right,” say something like, “I saw the child running outside three times last week in subzero weather without a jacket or hat. I saw him shivering and uncomfortable. He seemed to want to come inside.” However, remember that it is not your job to “prove” abuse or neglect. If suspicions are all you have, you should report those as well.
  • Understand that you may not learn of the outcome. Due to confidentiality laws in Australia, unless you are a mandated reporter in an official capacity, you probably won’t be updated by Child Protective Services (CPS) about the results of their investigation. The family may not broadcast that they have been mandated services, either—but that doesn’t mean they are not receiving them.
  • If you see future incidences, continue to call and report them. Each child abuse report is a snapshot of what is going on in the family. The more information that you can provide, the better the chance of getting the best care for the child.

To make a Child Abuse report please follow these links:

VIC: https://services.dhhs.vic.gov.au/reporting-child-abuse

NSW: https://www.facs.nsw.gov.au/families/Protecting-kids/mandatory-reporters/how-to

QLD: https://www.csyw.qld.gov.au/child-family/protecting-children/reporting-child-abuse

SA: https://www.childprotection.sa.gov.au/reporting-child-abuse

WA: https://www.wa.gov.au/service/justice/criminal-law/report-child-abuse

To make a Reportable and concerning incident report, click here

To make a Reportable and Concerning Incident Report, click here:

To make a Complaint, click here:

Purpose

Australia’s Leading Home Care Agency recognises the right of all participants/families to feel safe and to live in an environment that provides protection from assault, neglect, exploitation, discrimination or any other form of abuse. People with disabilities, children and young people are some of the most vulnerable groups in our society. It’s essential that Australia’s Leading Home Care Agency identify, consult and respond to instances where persons with disabilities, children or young persons are at risk of significant harm.

Common reasons for people with disabilities, children and young people to be at risk of significant harm include:

  • domestic and family violence
  • physical, sexual and emotional abuse
  • neglect

The purpose of this policy is to prevent and mitigate the effects of violence, abuse and neglect on participants/families through training and implementing processes to inform Staff and protect participants/families who are at risk of significant harm.

Scope

Australia’s Leading Home Care Agency will encourage and support any person who has witnessed the abuse of a service user or, who suspects that abuse has occurred, to make a report and be confident of doing so without fear of retribution. 

Definition

Abuse and Neglect: Any behaviour that is outside the norms of conduct and entails a substantial risk of causing physical or emotional harm to a person. Such behaviours may be intentional or unintentional and can include acts of omission (i.e. neglect) and commission (i.e. abuse).

Discrimination: Treating, or proposing to treat someone unfavourably because of a personal characteristic protected by the law. Discrimination includes bullying someone because of a protected characteristic.

Exploitation: The action or fact of mistreating someone to benefit from their work or the action of making use of and benefiting from resources.

Violence: Violent behaviour by a person towards another can include abusive behaviour that is physical, sexual, intimidating and forceful. 

Types of abuse

Terminology Signs and Symptoms Causes
Physical Abuse Bruising, lacerations, welts, rashes, broken or healing bones, burns, weight loss, facial swelling, missing teeth, pain or restricted movements, crying, acting fearful, agitation, drowsiness, hair loss and/or poor physical well-being Hitting, slapping, pushing, punching and/or burning, which entails an incident that is non-accidental resulting in pain or injury.
Psychological/ Emotional Abuse Loss of interest in self-care, helplessness, withdrawal, apathy, insomnia, fearfulness, reluctant to communicate openly, chooses not to maintain eye contact, paranoia and confusion. Intimidation, humiliation, harassment, threatening, sleep deprivation, withholding affection, and/or not allowing the person to maintain their decision-making powers, which leads to a pattern repeated over time.
Sexual Abuse Unexplained sexually transmitted disease, vaginal/anal bleeding, fearful of certain people or places, bruising to genital areas inner thigh or around breasts, anxiety, torn or bloody underclothes, difficulty in walking or sitting, change in sleep pattern and repeating nightmares. Rape (penetration and/or oral-genital contact), interest in older person’s bodies, inappropriate comments and sexual references, inappropriate (possibly painful) administration of enemas or genital cleansing, indecent assault, sexual harassment which is mainly about violence and power over another person, rather than sexual pleasure.
Neglect Poor hygiene or personal care, unkempt appearance, lack of personal items, absence of health aids, weight loss, agitation, inappropriate clothing and/or lack of food. The intentional failure to provide basic life necessities.
Domestic and family abuse Any type of controlling, bullying, threatening or violent behaviour between people in a relationship including emotional, physical, sexual, financial or psychological abuse. Many experts believe psychopathology. Witnessing abuse as the norm, or being abused, destroys the child’s ability to trust others and undermines his or her ability to control emotion.

Policy

The Agency aims to:

  • take a preventative, proactive and participatory approach to participant/family safety
  • value and empower the participant/family to contribute to decisions which affect their lives
  • foster a culture of openness that supports all persons to disclose the risks of harm to participant/family safety
  • respect diversity in cultures and child-rearing practices, while keeping the participant/family’s safety paramount
  • provide training to staff on appropriate conduct and behaviour towards participants/families
  • engage only the most suitable people to work with participants/families and ensure superior quality staff, volunteer supervision and professional development
  • ensure participants/families know who to talk to if they’re worried or feeling unsafe and that they’re comfortable and encouraged to raise any issues
  • report suspected abuse, neglect or mistreatment promptly to the appropriate authorities
  • share information appropriately and lawfully with other organisations where the safety and wellbeing of the participant/family is at risk
  • value the input of families and advocates and communicate regularly with them.

In the case that situation meets the criteria of a reportable incident, then the Reportable Incident, Accident and Emergency Policy and Procedure will apply.

Statement of commitment to safety

Australia’s Leading Home Care Agency is committed to the safety and wellbeing of all participants/families. This commitment is the primary focus of our support and decision making. Australia’s Leading Home Care Agency is committed to providing a safe environment where participants/families are safe and their voices are heard and included in decisions that affect their lives. Attention is paid to the cultural safety of participants/families from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds.

All Australia’s Leading Home Care Agency Staff members have a responsibility to understand the critical and specific role they play, both individually and collectively, to ensure the wellbeing and safety of all participants/families and young people are at the forefront of all they do and every decision they make.

Safe Code of Conduct

Australia’s Leading Home Care Agency is committed to the safety and wellbeing of participants/families. Our business recognises the importance of, and responsibility for, ensuring our environment is a safe, supportive and enriching environment that respects and fosters the dignity and self-esteem of all people, enabling them to thrive.

This code of conduct aims to protect both Staff and participants/families and to reduce opportunities for abuse or harm to occur. It also assists in understanding how to avoid, or better manage, risky behaviours and situations. It’s intended to complement child protection legislation, disability legislation, policies and procedures and professional standards, codes or ethics as these apply to all staff.

Australia’s Leading Home Care Agency management supports the implementation and monitoring of the Code of Conduct. We will plan, implement and monitor arrangements to provide inclusive and safe environments.

All Staff, volunteers, and any other community members involved in participant/family-related work are required to comply with the Code of Conduct by observing expectations for appropriate and acceptable behaviour (see ‘4.3 Acceptable behaviours’ below). The Code of Conduct applies in all situations, including planned activities and the use of digital technology and social media.

Acceptable behaviours

Staff or any other persons involved with participant/family-related work are responsible for supporting and promoting the safety of participants/families by:

  • upholding Australia’s Leading Home Care Agency’s Statement of Commitment for the participant/family’s safety
  • treating the participant/family, their family and advocates with respect within the environment and during outside activities as part of normal social and community activities
  • listening and responding to the views and concerns of the participant/family, particularly if they are reporting that they or another person have been abused; or that they’re worried about their safety or the safety of another participant/family
  • promoting cultural safety, participation and empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through interactions with their community leaders and members
  • promoting cultural safety, participation and empowerment of people with culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds through engagement with the community accessing the service
  • promoting the safety, participation and empowerment of people with disabilities
  • reporting any allegations of abuse or personal safety concerns to management
  • understanding and complying with all reporting or disclosure obligations (including state mandatory reporting), as they relate to protecting the participant/family from harm or abuse
  • maintaining the right to live in a safe environment by promoting and informing the participants/families of their rights
  • ensuring participants/families are safe and protected from harm, as quickly as possible, once abuse is suspected
  • identifying themselves to a participant/family upon entering premises and show any required identification.

Unacceptable behaviours

As front-line workers, volunteers and community members involved in participant/family-related work, we must not:

  • ignore or disregard any concerns, suspicions or disclosures of abuse
  • develop a relationship with any participant/family that could be viewed as favouritism or grooming behaviour, e.g. offering gifts
  • exhibit behaviours, or engage in activities, with participants/families that can be interpreted as abusive and unjustifiable in an educational, therapeutic or service delivery context
  • ignore behaviours by other adults towards young participants/families when they’re overly familiar or inappropriate
  • discuss content of an intimate nature or use sexual innuendo with participants/families, except where it occurs relevantly in the context of parental/advocate guidance or a therapeutic setting
  • treat a participant/family unfavourably because of their disability, age, gender, race, culture, vulnerability, sexuality or ethnicity
  • communicate directly with an underage participant/family, through personal or private contact channels, e.g. social media, email, instant messaging or texting, except where that communication is reasonable in all the circumstances, related to work or activities, or where there is a safety concern or other urgent matter.

Procedure

Strategies to identify and reduce or remove the risk of harm

Australia’s Leading Home Care Agency recognise that creating a safe organisation begins with a clear understanding of the potential risks to the participant/family and Staff in an organisation’s setting. Australia’s Leading Home Care Agency will identify possible issues and problems and plan to reduce or remove these risks.

To reduce the likelihood of harm Australia’s Leading Home Care Agency will consider, define and act against its organisational risks.

These strategies include:

  • considering the organisation, activities and the services provided to participants/families
  • reviewing and planning how to make all activities as safe as possible
  • developing a safety plan for participants/families who require additional supports
  • supporting participants/families with disabilities to understand plans and safety procedures using appropriate communication methods
  • informing participants/families that they have the right to live in a safe environment
  • acting proactively to reduce the likelihood of any risks.

Reporting violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation and discrimination

A report must be made if:

  • a participant/family shows a change in behaviour or mood which may indicate they’re being abused
  • someone is observed behaving towards a participant/family in a way that makes others feel uncomfortable
  • a participant/family advises they are being abused by another person
  • a person advises that they are abusing another participant/family
  • a participant/family or visitor informs that they’ve observed abusive acts
  • a participant/family advises that they feel discriminated against, e.g. language and actions
  • a participant/family presents as unkempt or seeking food
  • there is evidence of unexplained bruising or similar
  • an action or inaction is witnessed that may be considered abusive
  • when an individual, for any reason, believes a participant/family is being abused.

Failure to report an abusive situation may result in a criminal offence.

Reporting procedure below relates to:

  • abuse or neglect of a person with a disability
  • unlawful sexual or physical contact with, or assault of, a person with disability
  • Sexual misconduct, committed against, or in the presence of, a person with a disability, including grooming of the person with a disability for sexual activity
  • Unauthorised use of restrictive practices in relation to a person with a disability.

Reporting roles

  1. The organisation will establish the following roles and ensure that allocated staff are aware of their responsibilities:
    • Approved Reportable Incident Approver responsibilities:
    • Have the authority to review reports prior to submission to the NDIS Commission.
    • Submit new Reportable Incidents.
    • View previous Reportable Incidents submitted by their organisation.
  2. Authorised Reportable Incidents Notifier responsibilities:
    • Supports the Authorised Reportable Incidents Approver to collate and report the required information.
    • Creates new Reportable Incident notifications to be saved as a draft for review and submission by the authorised Approver.