COVID-19 resources on Safeguarding Children

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Screening for economic hardship for child welfare-involved families during the COVID-19 pandemic: a rapid partnership response

Child Abuse and Neglect

Background: Pandemics have a wide range of economic, health and social consequences related to both the spread of a disease and efforts made by government leaders to contain it which may be particularly detrimental for the child welfare-involved population. This is because child welfare agencies serve some of the highest needs children and families. A significant proportion of these families face economic hardship, and as a result of containment measures for COVID-19, more families inevitably will. Objective: Given the range of negative consequences related to the pandemic and the evolving supports available to families, child protection workers needed a clinical tool to guide and support work with families informed by an understanding of economic hardship. The objective of this paper is to report on the development and implementation strategy of a tool to be used for practice intervention during the pandemic. Methods: Action research methodology was utilized in the creation of the clinical tool. The tool’s development and implementation occurred through an academic/child welfare sector partnership involving child welfare agencies representing diverse regions and populations in Ontario, Canada. Factor analysis of representative child welfare data from the Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect 2018 (OIS-2018) on economic hardship was used to inform the development of questions on the clinical tool. Results: The development and implementation strategy of the clinical tool are described, including the results from analyses of the OIS-2018. Conclusions: Future directions for the project are discussed, including considerations for using this tool beyond the pandemic.

Last updated on hub: 21 January 2021

"Oh, this is actually okay": understanding how one state child welfare training system adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic

Child Abuse and Neglect

Background: Training for new and existing child protection system (CPS) caseworkers is critical to developing and maintaining a competent workforce that effectively works towards safety, permanency, and wellbeing outcomes for children in the system. The COVID-19 pandemic required a shift to virtual training to continue training CPS professionals safely. Objective: The purpose of our project was to determine if there were differences in learning outcomes between learners who completed training in the usual delivery methods (Pre-COVID) and the fully virtual delivery methods (Post-COVID). We also sought to understand any factors that facilitated or impeded successful virtual training during the pandemic. Participants and setting: Caseworkers-in-training completed learning and satisfaction assessments through standard continuing quality improvement efforts. Training facilitators, course developers, and leadership completed qualitative interviews. Methods: We assessed quantitative differences in one US state in learner knowledge, satisfaction, and behaviors before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and conducted a qualitative thematic analysis of interviews with training system employees. Results: Overall, there were limited differences in learner outcomes before and after the transition to virtual training delivery. Across the employee interviews, three main themes emerged: organizational culture facilitated the transition, external constraints caused challenges during the transition, and there were opportunities to evolve training practices positively. Conclusions: The shift to a virtual learning environment had little impact on learner knowledge or satisfaction. Employee perspectives indicated that the pre-COVID investment in organizational culture has substantial dividends for performance during the crisis.

Last updated on hub: 21 January 2021

Data-informed recommendations for services providers working with vulnerable children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic

Child Abuse and Neglect

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic and associated response measures have led to unprecedented challenges for service providers working with vulnerable children and families around the world. Objective: The goal of the present study was to better understand the impact of the pandemic and associated response measures on vulnerable children and families and provide data-informed recommendations for public and private service providers working with this population. Participants and Setting: Representatives from 87 non-government organizations (NGOs) providing a variety of direct services (i.e. residential care, family preservation, foster care, etc.) to 454,637 vulnerable children and families in 43 countries completed a brief online survey. Methods: Using a mixed methods design, results examined 1) ways in which children and families have been directly impacted by COVID-19, 2) the impact of the pandemic on services provided by NGOs, 3) government responses and gaps in services for this population during the pandemic, and 4) strategies that have been effective in filling these gaps. Results: Data revealed that the pandemic and restrictive measures were associated with increased risk factors for vulnerable children and families, including not having access to vital services. The NGOs experienced government restrictions, decreased financial support, and inability to adequately provide services. Increased communication and supportive activities had a positive impact on both NGO staff and the families they serve. Conclusions: Based on the findings, ten recommendations were made for service providers working with vulnerable children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last updated on hub: 21 January 2021

Child safety, protection, and safeguarding in the time of COVID-19 in Great Britain: proposing a conceptual framework

Child Abuse and Neglect

Background: Great Britain has the highest coronavirus death rate in Europe. While the pandemic clearly poses a risk to the lives and wellbeing of vulnerable groups, necessary public health measures taken to delay or limit the spread of the virus have led to distinctive challenges for prevention, family support, court processes, placement and alternative care. The pandemic has also come about at a time when statutory changes to partnerships have led to a reduction in the importance of educational professional representation in the new formulation in England and Wales. Objectives: In this discussion paper, we propose a novel and pragmatic conceptual framework during this challenging time. Participants: We consulted with 8 education professionals and 4 field-based student social workers. Setting: Bodies responsible for safeguarding have been working quickly to develop new approaches to fulfilling their responsibilities, for example through online home visits and case conferences. However, some communities have been highlighted as experiencing particular challenges because of the pandemic and its impacts. Protection of vulnerable children is increasingly dependent on individualised - and often pathologising - practice with a lack of emphasis on the importance of the social. Holistic consideration of the child is side-lined. Results: Our framework comprises two phases: pandemic and aspirational. Conclusion: The framework illuminates the importance of interconnected sectors and multi-agency working, the need for resilient and adaptable support systems, and the need to promote the importance of children’s rights and voices to be heard above the noise of the pandemic.

Last updated on hub: 21 January 2021

The impact of COVID19 on child criminal exploitation: interim research briefing

University of Nottingham

Through an analysis of primary interviews and a review of published sources this project aims to unpack the contours of risk related to the exploitation of young people in County Lines drug supply during the pandemic. The interviewees (N=13) were drawn from law enforcement, local authorities and a care-providing NGO, across a variety of geographic counties in England. Participants were asked to reflect on their personal experiences of working during the pandemic, its effect on the risk to service clients and observed impacts on activity related to the County Lines drug supply model. COVID-19 restrictions hamper the ability of frontline agencies to risk-assess child exploitation, and exacerbate the potential for County Lines related exploitation and harm to remain hidden. Ongoing concerns include: safeguarding capacity; evolving County Lines supply methods, including increased levels of cuckooing with young people remaining in traphouses for longer, greater use of local children involved in transporting drugs, perpetrators claiming to have COVID19 in order to avoid being stopped, questioned and arrested, and use of supermarket carparks to co-locate with customer shopping routines; and the implications for children and young people – heightened risk of exploitation due to greater social media and internet use; feelings of isolation, and greater substance misuse among children residing away from family members.

Last updated on hub: 13 January 2021

COVID-19: children, young people and families: December 2020 evidence summary

Scottish Government

This briefing is the fifth in a series of evidence summaries on the impact of COVID19 on the wellbeing of children and families in Scotland, drawing on wider UK and international research where appropriate. The emerging picture on the reopening of schools/childcare in Scotland appears to be a positive one for many children and families. There are some signs of recovery with indicative evidence of improvements in children’s emotional wellbeing, loneliness and peer and family relationships, particularly for younger age groups. However, emerging evidence on child mental wellbeing in Scotland shows that for some children, particularly for older children and young people, significant issues remain. A recurring theme is the need for more ‘recovery’ support e.g. in schools and childcare settings, particularly for child mental wellbeing. Whilst most Scottish evidence suggests a general level of satisfaction with the safe reopening of schools/childcare, there is a feeling from some young people that more could be done to enforce or increase safety measures in schools. Although social media is generally perceived by young people to be a positive means of keeping in touch with friends, there continues to be emerging evidence around increased levels of online bullying during the national lockdown. There continues to be evidence of the strain placed on parents by the pandemic and the impact that this can have on parenting and child wellbeing but there is also evidence of positive impacts of the pandemic on family relationships. In addition, the paper outlines a number of findings from Scotland and the UK about how different sub-groups of young people are experiencing the return to school/college/work, as well as new evidence on their experiences during the pandemic more generally.

Last updated on hub: 12 January 2021

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on child welfare: schools

National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

This briefing uses insight from NSPCC Childline counselling sessions and message boards to highlight children and young people’s experiences of being away from and returning to school during the coronavirus pandemic. Key themes include: learning during lockdown; attending school during lockdown; transitioning back to school; COVID secure measures in school; being sent home to self-isolate; bullying; and support and safety. During the first lockdown children and young people contacted Childline to talk about how they missed being in school, missed seeing their friends and teachers, struggled with being out of their normal routine and were worried about getting behind with their school work. As children returned to school, some young people talked about their challenges with the transition and the new COVID control measures. Some young people said that they see school as a safe and supportive place but were finding it difficult because they didn’t have the same support as they’d had before lockdown.

Last updated on hub: 11 January 2021

Safeguarding pressures phase 7: interim report

The Association of Directors of Children's Services

The seventh phase of a research study which uses survey and interview data from local authorities to examine the safeguarding related pressures facing children's services across England, including changes in demand and provision of children's social care. This interim report, ahead of the study full publication in February 2021, provides key headlines including a focus on the impact of Covid-19. There was a greater variation between authorities in terms of the volume of safeguarding activities in 2019/20, resulting in an overall reduction in referrals and children in need, and increases in contacts, assessments and Section 47 Enquiries in England. The study estimates, based on local authority responses, that there has also been an increase in the number of looked after children, UASC and care leavers. Local authorities reported how their approaches to safeguarding during Covid-19 were effective. Creative uses of technology to engage and support children, families and professionals during the pandemic have been harnessed. However, digital poverty, together with ‘not knowing what is happening behind the camera’ can carry additional problems for some families and groups of children including very young children, and some children with a disability.

Last updated on hub: 05 January 2021

Safeguarding children in a pandemic: pandemonium with possibility?

Child Abuse Review

This paper explores some of the clinical situations in which safeguarding challenges have presented themselves during the pandemic. It then explores some of the opportunities that the reconfiguration of services has presented for those working in child health.

Last updated on hub: 04 January 2021

COVID on three continents: how local children’s organisations in Africa, Europe and South America are adapting to the coronavirus challenge

Journal of Children's Services

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to share anecdotally how the pandemic is affecting children, families and some of the frontline local services that support them across three continents. Design/methodology/approach: Three members of Family for Every Child across three continents detail some of the day-to-day challenges they are facing in their work with children and families as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Findings: Social distancing and fear of the virus are hampering front line organisations in Africa, Europe and South America, bringing additional challenges to keeping children safe. Originality/value: These three case studies give a snapshot of the issues faced by three non-governmental children’s organisations over three continents during July 2020.

Last updated on hub: 30 December 2020

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