Child Abuse Guidelines
WHAT IS CHILD ABUSE
This addition to the coaches portfolio is to raise awareness to the issues underlined and also to serve as protection to instructors and children in their care. This information is based upon guidelines received from the National Coaching Foundation. A couple of basic principles should be remembered;
- When physical contact between the coach and performer is a necessary part of the coaching process, coaches must ensure that no action on their part could be misconstrued and that any National Governing Body guideline on this matter are followed.
- The relationship between coach and performer is based upon mutual trust and respect. This means that the performer should be made aware of the coach's qualifications and experience and must be given the opportunity to consent to or to decline proposals for training, performance or competition.
- Physically hurt or injure children [e.g. by hitting, shaking, squeezing, biting or burning]
- Give children alcohol, inappropriate drugs or poison
- Attempt to suffocate or drown children.
- Fail to meet a child's basic physical needs e.g. for food, warm clothing
- Consistently leave children alone and unsupervised
- Fail or refuse to give children love, affection or attention.
- Sexual acts
- Showing children pornographic books, photographs or videos, or taking pictures for pornographic purposes.
- There is persistent lack of love or affection
- There is constant overprotection which prevents children from socialising
- Children are frequently being shouted at or taunted
- There is neglect, physical or sexual abuse.
- Unexplained bruising or injuries
- Sexually explicit language or actions
- Sudden changes in behaviour
- Something a child has said
- A change observed over a long period of time e.g. the child losing weight or becoming increasingly dirty or unkempt.
Child abuse is a term used to describe ways in which children are harmed, usually by adults and often people they know and trust. It refers to the damage done to a child's physical or mental health.
Children can be abused within or outside their family, at school and even in the sports environment. Child abuse can take many forms:
Physical abuse, where adults:
In sport situations, physical abuse might also occur when the nature and intensity of training exceeds the capacity of the child's immature and growing body.
Neglect, includes situations in which adults:
Neglect in a sports situation might also occur if a teacher or coach fails to ensure children are safe or exposes them to undue cold or risk of injury.
Boys and girls are sexually abused, when adults, male or female, use them to meet their own sexual needs. This could include:
Sport situations, which involve physical contact e.g. supporting or guiding children, could potentially create situations where sexual abuse may go unnoticed. Abusive situations may also occur if adults misuse their power over young people.
This can occur in a number of ways, where:
Emotional abuse in sport might also include situations where parents or coaches subject children to constant criticism, bullying or unrealistic pressure to perform to high expectations.
HOW WOULD YOU RECOGNISE A CHILD IS BEING ABUSED
There are signs, which could alert you to the fact that a child might be being abused, including:
However, it is important to note that a child could be displaying some or all of these signs, or behaving in a way which is worrying; this does not necessarily mean the child is being abused. Similarly, there may not be any signs, you may just feel something is wrong. If you are worried, it is not your responsibility to decide if it is abuse, but it is your responsibility to act on your concerns and do something about it. Social services and the Police have a duty under the Children Act to ensure children are protected and to help those who have been abused. They are trained to deal with child abuse and should be contacted when there are concerns. They will give you advice and take responsibility for any action, which is necessary.
What should I do if I have concerns
In many instances your first reference will be your Association. The simple steps below provide useful information:
- If you have noticed a change in the child's behaviour, discreetly talk to the parents or carers. It may be that something has happened, like a bereavement, which has caused the child to be unhappy. However, if your concerns are about sexual abuse or violence, talking to the parents or carers might put the child at greater risk.
- If your concerns remain or you cannot talk to the parents/carers, consult the person in charge or someone you can trust. It is the responsibility of the person in charge to make the decision to contact Social services.
- If the person in charge is not available, or the concerns are about him/her, or you do not feel appropriate action has been taken, you must contact Social Services or the Police yourself. The number is in the phone book. If you want to talk things through to gain some advice, you can phone the NSPCC free helpline on 0800 800 500. This operates 24 hours a day, every day.
What will happen next?
Social Services have a responsibility to investigate all concerns about child abuse. They do this jointly with the Police. This may involve talking to the child and his/her family and/or gathering more information. If allegations have been made against a coach/member of staff, this may involve suspension or an enquiry. If a crime has been committed, criminal investigations will take place.
What should I do if a child tells me s/he is being abused?
- Stay calm - ensure the child is safe and feels safe.
- Show and tell the child that you are taking what he/she says seriously.
- Reassure the child and stress that she/he is not to blame.
- Be honest, explain you will have to tell someone else to help stop the abuse.
- Make a note of what the child has said as soon as possible after the event.
- Maintain confidentiality, only tell others if it will help protect the child.
- Rush into actions that may be inappropriate.
- Make promises you cannot keep.
- Take sole responsibility, always consult someone else i.e. the person in charge or someone you can trust, so you can begin to protect the child and gain support for yourself.
If I do something, might it make things worse?
Taking appropriate action if you are worried about abuse is never easy, it takes courage but it protects a young life. You may be upset about what the child has said or you may worry about the consequences of your actions. Sometimes people worry about children being removed from their families as a result of abuse but in reality this rarely happens. However, one thing is certain, you cannot ignore it. The effects of abuse on children can be devastating, especially if children are left unprotected or do not receive help to cope with the abuse. The most serious effect is that children can and do die as a result of abuse. They can develop behavioural difficulties, problems at school, their development can be delayed and they can become depressed and withdrawn. Some of these problems, if left untreated, can persist into adulthood.
If you do have any suspicions, rather than ignore them because you are unsure, it would be best to discuss them with our Child Protection Officer Michael Tattershall on 0113-2947098/07904-240569 or if you prefer write to him at: 20 Whitebridge Avenue, Halton, Leeds, LS9 0EJ.