FAQs on Child protection

I am scared to contact the police or the social worker as I don't want the situation to be held against me

If you feel you or your child may be at immediate risk then you need to contact the Police. The most important thing is the safety of you and your children.

If you fear that following reporting the domestic violence, this will be held against you, then contact an independent specialist advice organisation, either Family Rights Group, Rights of Women or a domestic violence agency for advice and support (see further help).

Failure to seek help can sometimes be interpreted as placing yourself and your child at risk. You may feel in a catch 22 situation, in that if you don't report then you'll be seen as failing to protect but if you do, then it is evidence of continuing risk. We understand that dilemma but you and your children's safety is what matters most. Specialist advice organisations can help advocate for you to Children's Services so that you are not blamed for doing the right thing.

My partner has told me the children will be taken from me if I report the violence

Threats of this kind are common in domestic violence situations. It's very important that it does not deter you from seeing help. You can discuss how to manage your situation by contacting a domestic violence helpline. You can find details in the where to get further help" section.

The social worker doesn't believe my child is in danger, but I feel s/he is, what can I do?

It is very upsetting to feel your child is at risk of harm but that professionals do not agree with you. Whether the social worker agrees your child is at risk or not, contact a domestic violence specialist organisation to find out what support you may be offered. (See where to get further help). Keep a record of the instances of abuse, and ask any professionals working with you to help you explain your concerns to the social worker.

You should always call the police if you are worried that you or your child is in immediate danger.

What happens if I feel the social worker doesn't understand what I am going through?

All child care social workers should have had some training in domestic violence and the impact it has on children, but some may not have much experience of it in practice. If you are worried they don't have the necessary experience to support you, you could politely ask the social worker's manager if there is a social worker available with more experience in this area. It may not be possible for the manager to offer you a different social worker but you can ask what the reasons are for any decision. If you are very unhappy with the social worker, then you can make a complaint.

My child's social worker is male and I feel very uncomfortable with this given my recent experience of domestic violence

You can request a change of social worker with your social worker's manager. Make sure you explain your reasons carefully and if the manager says it is not possible to allocate a social worker of a different gender ask the manager to explain the reasons in writing.

I don't feel that the social worker is being honest with me and we don't get along

The relationship you have with your child's social worker is an important one. Unfortunately, sometimes in domestic violence situations, women do not feel supported by their child's social worker. Sometimes women say that they feel blamed for the situation, or disbelieved, or that they are being judged as a bad mother. Try to talk about your feelings directly with the social worker, who may not realise how you feel. If you have specialist domestic violence support, that worker can talk to your child's social worker and give more specialist information about domestic violence if the social worker doesn't have this knowledge.

I don't see what happened between me and my partner as a "domestic violence" situation, it was a one off

It is hard being told you are a "victim" when you don't see yourself as one. But keep in mind that a lot of women who have been subjected to domestic violence did not see it that way at first.

If professionals feel there has been domestic violence, it is better to agree to a referral to a domestic violence service, so you can speak freely to the professionals there. You may start to feel differently about your situation, or at least, you may learn more about domestic violence, which may be helpful in the future. Also, the professionals will want to see you making sure your children do not witness domestic violence, otherwise they may consider your children to be at risk of harm.

I don't want to end my relationship with my partner but the social worker says I have to or they will remove my children from my care

Sometimes, after assessments have been completed, your child's social worker may say that your partner should leave the home and have no further contact with your child. If you do not agree with this, try discussing this with a domestic violence support worker. If you have not already been referred to a domestic violence agency, you should ask for a referral or contact a domestic violence agency yourself. (See "where to get further advice").

After discussing your situation with a domestic violence professional, you may change your mind about what is in the best interests of the children.

If you still do not agree, you should ask the social worker to be clear with you what the consequences would be if you do not co-operate. They may tell you that under these circumstances, the Local Authority will start care proceedings to remove your children from your care.

At this stage, the Local Authority would give you a letter before proceedings.

Alternatively, as the social worker's concern is the safety of the children, you may be able to agree arrangements for you to keep in contact with your partner, so long as the children are not involved. Of course, you will not be able to do this if there are legal restrictions, such as bail restrictions or injunctions, in place.

The social worker keeps bringing up issues from my past and I don't think this is relevant

No one likes to have their past discussed, especially when your past is painful and you have worked hard to move on.

But it is also true that some women who are in abusive relationships have been in them before. Nevertheless, social workers and other professionals should recognise when you have been able to learn from the past, and have moved on. Try to discuss your history honestly with the social worker. It is important to acknowledge things that recur and are still problematic for you, but also to be able to recognise what is no longer relevant.

I am keeping to my part of the child protection plan but the professionals don't do their part or take too long. This stops my child from getting the help they need and means they have a child protection plan for longer than is necessary. What can I do?

It can be very frustrating when delays happen through no fault of your own but try to remain polite and calm. Although you are likely to have a lot to do at the moment, do try to stay organised. Make notes for yourself about appointments and referrals and keep track of what is outstanding. Always ask when you can expect something by. You may need to remind professionals of things they have said they will do. If, for example, a referral is promised but then doesn't happen, ask if you can refer yourself. If delays continue, you can consider contacting your social worker's manager and if this does not resolve the problem, then you can make a complaint.

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