ADVICE FOR SCHOOLS
Seeing a child or young person every weekday puts teachers and school staff in a unique position.
You may see a child for longer periods of time than their friends and family, so can often be at an advantage when it comes to spotting the signs of exploitation and in a position to act on them quickly.
It is highly recommended that all staff should undergo training around Child Exploitation so that the school are aware of the many forms this abuse can take, signs to look for and to know how best to support a child who is at risk. We can deliver free tailored awareness and education sessions for staff and students – please email [email protected]to find out more about how we can help you with this.
What to look for
As young people grow up and move into adolescence and adulthood, it is natural for them to exhibit certain behaviours which don’t necessarily put them at risk of exploitation. Things like –
- Taking risks
- Experimenting with alcohol, drugs or their sexuality
- Rebelling against authority
- Being secretive
- Meeting new people
However when these behaviours are coupled with additional factors, such as –
- Low self esteem
- Living in care
- Being bullied
- Unstable family / domestic issues
- Disabilities of Special Educational Needs
- Recent Bereavement
The risk of being targeted by an abuser is much higher. Together these factors can create sets of behaviour that abusers look for, such as –
- Low self esteem and a high need for attention / affection
- Seeking love / a relationship, and doing so secretly so that they can’t be talked out of it / their need to continue in a relationship they may know is unhealthy
- Feeling disinhibited and taking risks – this puts them at risk because their behaviour can be used against them as blackmail
- A desire to get money or expensive items – this can make them more likely to accept gifts without questioning why and how they may be forced to pay back for them, and more likely to undertake criminal activity to continue ‘earning’ money.
Other risk factors
In addition, there are other factors which may heighten the risk to a child or young person, such as
Experience of living in poverty / being tight on money
Studies unfortunately show that disadvantaged children are less likely to reject inappropriate touching or to report inappropriate behaviour to parents without risk of punishment. They are less likely to trust authority and do not expect adults to believe them if they speak out about what is happening to them. This means they are more likely to suffer low self-esteem and a poor emotional state.
Children and Young people with SEND
Young people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to exploitation for a number of factors, including over protection, social isolation and society not viewing them as sexual beings; which can both frustrate the young person and also cause professionals and carers to not consider sexual activity as a danger. Safe and Sound have a dedicated Education Worker who works with children with additional needs or disabilities. Please contact us to discuss this area of our work and for more information.
Children from BAME backgrounds maybe more at risk if the family culture does not involve being able to talk openly about sex, relationships or things like drugs and alcohol. They may also only encounter limited perspectives at home which can put them at a disadvantage when it comes to encountering different attitudes outside of the home bubble. Safe and Sound have a dedicated Communities Worker who specifically works with children and young people from BAME backgrounds. Please contact us to discuss this area of our work and for more information.
Signs that exploitation may be taking place
These are just examples and not an exhaustive list – it is possible that a child may exhibit none of these signs but still be exploited. For more advice, please contact us on the details below.
- A child acquires money, clothes, mobile phones or other valuable items and cannot explain plausibly how they obtained them
- Any child carrying large amounts of money, drugs, or carrying a weapon
- Any child experiences health problems – sexually transmitted diseases, or signs of physical altercations such as cuts or bruising.
- A child is in a relationship with a much older boy or girl or with a mature adult
- Rumours around school of an older relationship or involvement in gangs
- A young person begins to travel a lot – this is an indication of being used as drug mules or that they’re being sexually exploited
- A child becomes involved in a gang or isolated from their usual friends
- Unexplained or regular absences from school, or being excluded
- Evidence of self harm or changes in their emotional wellbeing
- Secretive behaviour
- Over familiarity with stranger
If you have concerns about a child and want to discuss making a referral, or just want to ask for some advice, please feel free to contact us.
Here is an example of the services we offer – please get in touch with us to discuss how they may be able to help you.
Our awareness sessions are delivered to schools, families, community groups and professionals. By raising awareness we can help prevent exploitation occurring.
One to One Support
For children or young people who are at risk of being exploited, we give them a dedicated support worker who works with them individually to address their risk factors.
Disruption & Youth Work
Complimenting our support services, our Youth Work team will introduce children and young people to positive activities like sport or music enabling them to socialise in a safe environment and build their resilience to risk.
Some children and young people who have had their risk of exploitation addressed still need further help. Our transition process provides them with life skills, mentoring and a longer period of help as they move back to normal day to day life.
In partnership with the University of Derby, our Education Worker will develop new resources and offer educational sessions with a real focus on hard to reach groups and those with special educational needs or a disability. This will include a greater presence online. By improving understanding at an early stage, we can help keep the most vulnerable children and young people safe.
Our independent family support service recognises the impact that exploitation can have on the whole family. This work helps families to understand what has happened to their child, provides them with emotional and practical help and empowers families to work with us to disrupt exploitation whilst ensuring their wider needs are met.
Outreach enables us to engage children and young people who might otherwise struggle to access our services or don't know about the support we can offer. By being visibile in the community we can actively raise our profile with children and young people whilst also discouraging potential predators.
For many years we have been keen to share our experiences and best practice ideas with other professionals working in Childrens Services and related professions