"Daddy hits Mummy" What (if anything) should I do?

(58 Posts)
BestestBrownies Thu 03-May-12 16:21:46

Hi Mumsnetters

This is my first posting, so forgive me if I'm not up on all the slang etc. My dilemma is this....

I'm a nanny and have been caring for a 5yo girl after school for around 4 months. Two days ago (Tuesday), she told me that "Daddy hits Mummy. He shouts at her a lot, and he pushes her and makes her cry. He shouts at me a lot as well."

This came out of leftfield whilst the two of us were alone and she was eating dinner. We were talking about babies and I was telling her about a pregnant friend who has a baby boy in her tummy. She went a bit quiet and said that she wished it was a girl because "Boys aren't very nice". Of course, I dismissed this comment as normal girls-are-better-than-boys talk, but then she came straight out with the worrying part about Daddy hitting Mummy.

Do I have a quiet word with the Mum? Do I just ignore it completely as none of my business? I just don't know what's the right thing to do. I haven't been able to sleep properly the last two nights for thinking about this.

I've had conflicting advice from my mum, sister and DH on what would be the best course of action to take, so I'm hoping that someone who has found themselves in a similar situation might share how they handled it and what the outcome was please.

MsWeatherwax Thu 03-May-12 16:29:26

How awful. I work with children (in a different context) and there is a disclosure we have to report it. I'm not sure if this is differently legally for a nanny but I suspect ethically speaking that you would need to pass on the concern to Social Services.

HereIGo Thu 03-May-12 16:32:04

Ethically, I would pass this on to social services, then have a serious 1-1 conversation with the mother - whether this ends her employment of you or not, she needs to know that her daughter is distressed.
Poor child and poor you too.

kohl Thu 03-May-12 16:33:21

I had an violent childhood and I wish someone had stepped in. This little girl is asking for help. Have you thought of calling the NSPCC helpline, or the national domestic violence helpline?

kohl Thu 03-May-12 16:34:40

Sorry posted to soon - ultimately I think ethically, if not legally you have an obligation to inform Social Services.

MsGee Thu 03-May-12 16:36:56

Witnessing abuse is classed as abuse, regardless of the fact he shouts at her. I'd say you have to inform social services.

Sarcalogos Thu 03-May-12 16:38:59

Google safeguarding helpline in your area.

Councils/social services/charities have localised numbers you can call for advice. You can usually get anonymous advice.

Or go to the school and ask to speak to the child protection officer, they will be trained and they will have access to helpline support etc...

It is your duty as a professional to share information with agency's that can help to support the child in your care. (this has become even clearer in law since baby p etc...). If you don't you could later be found negligent by the police.

Think about the poor child who is at risk here. Daddy will most likely go on to be violent towards her if he hasn't already.

Blu Thu 03-May-12 16:40:31

I think asking for advice from a helpline is a good idea.

If you have regular meetings with your employer, I would say 'there's something I need to report to you. It's not my business to ask for a response or a reply from you but it is my job to let you know that your dd said this....' and then tell her that Child Protection / Safeguarding advice would be that if you are party to a disclosure of anything that suggests that the child could be at risk, it is your duty to report it.

Not an easy conversation at all - but matter of factness is your friend. As is being objective. Make sure you don't seem to be judging or interfering, just baldly doing your job.

FartBlossom Thu 03-May-12 16:41:04

A child in your care has told you she is in a dangerous situation. She is in your care and you have a duty to care for her have you?

I think you will need to tell somebody something. NSPCC I would go for I think. I think that the child may or may not be removed, but it is down to the mum ultimately to decide whether or not she will want to accept any help from anybody else.

All too often I hear that people in DV situations just needed someone to step in as they often didnt know where to go, I assume to a lack of confidence or being affraid. Hopefully more people who have been in situations of DV will be able to give you better advice.

EmyC Thu 03-May-12 16:41:43

I agree, the child has disclosed information to you which might suggest that they have witnessed or been subject to abuse, this of course might not be the case but you don't know for sure. I would look at your professional guidlines and also contact the council, councils using have a telephone service to report instances which you are worried about. It's about not taking chances really.
I work with adults and children in roles where you need a CRB and if we have any disclosures from adults or children we need to take them seriously,document them and pass this on to the relevant authorites, just in case, hope this helps :-)

BestestBrownies Thu 03-May-12 16:42:10

Hi MsWeatherwax, thanks for your post.

I think I should probably clarify things a bit. I've only been working for this particular family for around 4 months, and only have very brief interactions with the parents in the 10-15mins or so between them arriving home from work and me leaving. I've never seen any bruises on the Mum or daughter, but there are some other suspicious signs (but nothing that would conclusively prove abuse).

The thing is, I don't want to be trotting off to Social Services if I'm wrong and the little girl has just seen them play-fighting or something. Equally, if the father is physically violent, I'm not comfortable turning a blind eye either.

BestestBrownies Thu 03-May-12 16:47:10

Ah, apologies to the other respondents, my page didn't refresh that quickly as I was typing.

Having read your responses I see that general consensus is to approach the authorities, but what if I'm wrong? What if she just witnessed a play-fight between her parents?

Blu Thu 03-May-12 16:49:11

I don't think the OP has said anything that indicates that the child in actually in danger. And the courts typically order contact for father's who have beaten the mother - dv against the mother is never used as a reason to keep father's from their children, so I v much doubt that a child would be removed after being shouted at or having witnessed a few fights - however horrific it is that children should witness that. Many, many children do.

The woman needs some support, and it is possible that hearing that her dd has said this might be a catalyst for her to get help, and leave.

Thistledew Thu 03-May-12 16:51:21

If there is nothing wrong, then SS will take no action. I appreciate that you are potentially putting your job on the line, but which would be worse, doing nothing about a potential abuse situation or job hunting?

Blu Thu 03-May-12 16:54:00

OP, it's not a play fight if it makes Mummy cry, is it? Or that Daddy shouts at her.

But personally I would speak to the Mum before going to SS. Or at least seek advice from NSPCC or similiar.

Unfortunately I think that what will happen if you go straight to SS is that they will come round and visit and interview the Mother and Father, make it clear that it isn't ideal, but take absilutely no further action. Also, being reported may well make the mother feel very defensive - look at the posts on here when someone gets a call from the SS - whereas if you speak to her direct she may feel she has to take things into her own hands and leave her DH.

If the child said her father had hit her I would go straight to SS.

EldritchCleavage Thu 03-May-12 16:54:12

The consequences of acting and the information turning out to be wrong are so much less awful than the consequences of not acting and the information turning out to be right. I appreciate it isn't easy but please speak to SS.

Witnessing dv is classed as abuse. Your local council should have a safeguarding children phone number that you should ring. My advice would be to also write down exactly what was said and the date and time.

EmyC Thu 03-May-12 16:55:51

If domestic abuse is present it might not always result in bruises as it can take other forms such as emotional abuse etc. And children who witness abuse of others are also classed as having suffered. If you phone Social Services, the query will be investigated propfessionally and if there isn't any cause for worry all good and well, but if there is then, support can be offered, in all sorts of ways.

Trickle Thu 03-May-12 17:02:44

As far as I can see having volunteered in a youth work setting you have a child who has disclosed some information to you that legally you have a duty of care to report. It is not your responsibility to decide on the truthfulness or seriousness of the disclosure, it is your responsibility to pass the information on to the correct people. in the setting I was in that was just my supervisor, in this setting the safeguarding children phone number sounds like the best option. You have no experience or training in dealing with this kind of issue, that is why you pass it on.

BestestBrownies Thu 03-May-12 17:05:05

Thistledew - in response to your post, this isn't about my job. I could never in good conscience care for a child and turn a blind eye to abuse in the household if I knew FOR SURE that it was happening. I am an experienced and in-demand nanny, that's not the issue.

If I thought she was actually in imminent danger, of course I would have taken action already.

It's the ambiguity of it all. When she told me "Daddy hits Mummy...." her delivery was matter-of-fact and rather neutral. She wasn't upset, crying or in obvious distress, and a few seconds later was asking me what was for pudding.

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Thu 03-May-12 17:11:17

As a child who suffered abuse I can tell you that the abuser is often (in my experience) good at hitting in places where bruising isn't commonly on display and that victims are often good at hiding bruises. Many abused people do not go round with black eyes or obvious bruising, just because you can't see bruises don't mean it ain't happening.

Phone someone, anyone, NSPCC/Social Services on a 'what if' basis. They won' t need names at this stage but they wil advise you. Please?

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Thu 03-May-12 17:15:13

Maybe she was matter of fact because it IS matter of fact in her life.

OhDoAdmitMrsDeVere Thu 03-May-12 17:18:09

You are required by law to report a child in danger.
A child witnessing domestic abuse is a child in danger.

The fact that this child was 'matter of fact' about disclosing DV is worrying.

I am suprised you need to ask. But I expect it is difficult in your position. YOu dont really have a line manager to go to about this stuff.
You do have to act though.

BestestBrownies Thu 03-May-12 17:18:55

Hellhas.... - I know the child has no bruises because I get her changed from school uniform to playclothes every day that I look after her. If I suspected she was being abused there wouldn't be the dilemma as I would contact SS immediately.

I think I will speak to the Mum tomorrow and just tell her what her DD said in a neutral, non-judgemental way as Blu suggested.

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Thu 03-May-12 17:22:05

I meant the mother, not the child. Your post said "Daddy hits mummy"

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