"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"

CherryBlossom27 Thu 03-May-12 17:22:48

I can understand that you don't want to report it in case there isn't anything to report, but, this isn't just something that you suspect, the little girl told you what is happening.

I would contact the NSPCC and ask to report it anonymously, and if they need your details for whatever reason, then so be it. If a child is at risk, she needs to be put first.

VerityClinch Thu 03-May-12 17:30:14

I once told my nursery carer "Daddy hit mummy with a stick and went down the pub". I was 4.

In actual fact they had been play fighting with breadsticks and then my mum sent my dad to the off licence for some wine.

Nursery people knew my family very well (they were both teachers locally) but still intervened very swiftly.

Luckily my mum fell about laughing.

In all seriousness Social Services WILL be able to judge correctly between "a stick" and "breadsticks".

OhDoAdmitMrsDeVere Thu 03-May-12 17:33:39

If the child is witnessing DV she is being abused.

I was that child when I was younger. I witnessed my mum being strangled by her partner amongst other things and to me it was normalsad the fact that the child is matter of fact about it shouldn't be dismissed.

IWantMyHatBack Thu 03-May-12 17:38:38

At the very least you need to ring NSPCC and ask their advice. I'd do that before speaking to the Mother tbh so you have all the right information.

If there is nothing going on then SS won't do anything. You HAVE to err on the side of caution here, and you are legally obliged to report it. You would be negligent not to.

Scaredycat3000 Thu 03-May-12 17:41:14

My sister, as a toddler, was sat in her high chair eating with Mum and her parents. She suddenly says out of the blue 'Daddy hits Mummy' and carries on eating. It was not true. So yes you're right, she may have just randomly said it, or it could be true. I think your plan to speak to her Mum is a good start.

MsGee Thu 03-May-12 17:41:14

I don't understand your reticence to report. A child has disclosed something of concern to you. As people have said - a child witnessing DA is bring abused. Why put the mother in a difficult position - if this is her life what really do you think she'll say to you?

Report it. It's your professional duty.

member Thu 03-May-12 17:41:38

I don't think you should talk to either of the parents about this tbh (or instigate any conversations about this with the child), refer it on via a confidential helpline OR voice your concerns to the relevant safeguarding person at school for them to pass on.

It may or may not be true but I'd say that you should be placing the welfare of this child ABOVE that of the parents & report.

Out of interest, if the child had said one of her parents had hit her , what would be your reaction?

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 03-May-12 17:49:51

I think I'd talk with the Mum and possibly call NSPCC for advice.

Good luck Brownies

CurrySpice Thu 03-May-12 17:49:54

I'm not sure who you should report it to but I know for a fact that doing nothing is not an option. You must act.

I think if you talk to the mother she will deny / deflect.

amillionyears Thu 03-May-12 17:57:28

Is there something in your own background that is stopping you reporting it?

kohl Thu 03-May-12 22:03:34

I'm sorry to give conflicting advice to others, but when I told someone and they went to my mother to ask her what was going on, she flatly denied it and then she made sure I was so thoroughly terrified by what would happen to me and backed that up with punishment that I wouldn't even think of telling anyone for another 10 years. So I would say exercise extreme caution before telling her mother.
This child sounds matter of fact because to her it is the way the world is. As a 5 year old, how are you supposed to know that violence isn't acceptable at home?

It is a really difficult position to be in, and I do feel for you OP.

Rubirosa Thu 03-May-12 22:09:27

I work with children too, and our procedure in this situation would firstly to talk to the mother (unless you believe that doing so would put the child at risk) and let her know that you feel you need to pass on the concern. Then speak to your local safeguarding person at the council or social services.

BestestBrownies Thu 03-May-12 22:42:07

OK, so I called the NSPCC Helpline for some advice and after speaking to them, have decided to report it anonymously through their online form.

I am legally obliged to report it as some on here pointed out, but this way I'm still able to remain in the child's support network for as long as she needs me/is practical for her Mum, depending on the outcome of the SS investigation and what Mum decides to do. By choosing me over all the other adults in her life as the one person to tell, I can't betray her trust by compromising my ability to be there for her now, when she'll need me the most.

I won't speak to the Mum tomorrow as I initially planned. If there is DV going on, I don't know the extent of it or how afraid she might be of him/how she might react. Plus, if he is a violent, controlling bully with no repect for women (as all male perpetrators of DV are), then I don't want him finding out it was me.

I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks to everyone for the advice, it has helped me come to a sensible decision I think.

poshme Thu 03-May-12 23:01:55

OP you have done the right thing. You know you have. Well done- it's always hard when dealing with safeguarding issues. Take care of yourself and DON'T feel guilty whatever happens.
Children need adults to do the right thing. You have.

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Thu 03-May-12 23:02:57

Well done OP, you've done the right thing. I hope things work out for the child and her mum.

kohl Thu 03-May-12 23:04:40

Well done OP, I don't imagine this decision is easy.

ToothbrushThief Thu 03-May-12 23:15:10

Sounds like a very considered and good decision OP

Sarcalogos Thu 03-May-12 23:19:28

Well done, best course of action chosen.

TheHouseOnTheCorner Thu 03-May-12 23:27:25

She has spoken to you as an adult she trusts...in your position you ought to inform SS. YOU ae her protector as he parents are not n a position to look after her needs. The Mother because she is being abused and the Father because he is the abuser. PLEASE report.

TheHouseOnTheCorner Thu 03-May-12 23:28:21

Oh I see you have. Good. Poor little thing. Thank God she trusted you.

Yes well done OP. I did some child protection training a couple of weeks ago and wanted to pass along 2 things to you in this difficult situation in case it can be of any help:

1. Don't ever promise the poor little girl that "you won't tell anyone" or that you will keep something secret. As the person she chose to disclose to, it's obvious that she trusts you, and you want to keep it that way. I know you already know this!

2. Your role in this situation is not to be the investigator. Up-thread you said something about "you don't want to report if you're wrong." With all due respect, you need to leave the investigations and determination of "truth" to the people trained to do these investigations (SS, police). Hopefully the helpline that you rang made this clear.

I also just thought of a 3. If the girl brings it up again, be careful not to ask any "leading questions" because any information gathered in this way might not be able to be used later in court.

God willing that the girl and her mum get the help that they need and thank goodness they have you as their nanny looking out for them.

Well done again Bestest

amillionyears Fri 04-May-12 10:19:00

Well done Bestest for reporting it. I think the NSPCC gave you very good advice.My DD works in a childcare setting, but has people she is able to report these issues to.Being a nanny, if you are not part of an agency, must make these sorts of things harder to deal with.

Blu Fri 04-May-12 10:25:15

I'm pleased you have had professional advice that you are confident to follow.

I realise i was giving a different view....which I take as a reminder to myself that the best advice we can get on some of these threads is to seek advice form the relevant professional agencies.

Wishing you strength and good luck - I hope it all goes well and the child and her Mum get support to be free of this situation.

ifeelloved Fri 04-May-12 10:29:59

I used to nanny for a family where i suspected some kind of spousal abuse. I stupidly didn't involve ss and I regret it. I was too stupid and naive to do anything but god I wish I did.

I think you've made the right decision, if nothing's wrong then all will be fine, but I've never forgiven myself for walking away from that family

Noqontrol Fri 04-May-12 12:58:19

You've done the right thing op. A well considered and sensible approach.

amillionyears Fri 04-May-12 13:43:30

ifeelloved,you were not stupid and naive, probably just young.These are difficuilt situations for adults too.

ifeelloved Fri 04-May-12 13:51:53

I wish years. I was 29. I should have stood up for those children

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Fri 04-May-12 18:25:13

I'm sorry you have regrets about that time Ifeelloved
29 is still a spring chicken from my vantage point smile

Don't be too hard on yourself x

stargirl1701 Fri 04-May-12 18:36:00

You must report this to your local Child Protection Team. I am a teacher and this is standard practice within most children's services settings.

oohlordylordy Fri 04-May-12 21:22:54

Op, I think you have done a great deal of thinking about this and what you have done is for the best.

my 2yo once told me that granny had kicked her. She was adamant about it. Only that I am very close to my family - and mother- I would have been most disconcerted. But the more we asked about it the more far fetched the story became. So, the matter of factness you mention re. Your charge is a little worrying.

I do agree with not talking to the mother first off. If it
S not true, then no harm done, but if it is true, it's putting someone who feels scared and / or guilty in a position where they may not uk the Dc first.

RedWallflower Wed 05-Sep-12 22:41:09

You do need to take this further, as there are potential child protection issues. You could contact social work, for advise. Don't ignore it, as if something happens to that child, you will not forgive yourself.
At the very least you could speak to the mother, encourage her to contact woman's aid. My ex was physically abusive to me when drunk, and when I finally disclosed it to my best friends, they told me there were child protection issues, which hadn't occurred to me, as it was directed at me. But my eldest still remembers the shouting, and just before I left my ex ( the week of the disclosure) he developed severe maternal separation anxiety, which he doesn't have anymore.
Sorry for rambling. It's difficult, but please take advise from the authorities.

RedWallflower Wed 05-Sep-12 22:44:54

Sorry, I hadn't read all the messages, and see you sought advise.

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