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to think CPS should have helped us? and now what do we do?

(19 Posts)
phoebe00 Wed 01-Jun-11 13:56:45

Yesterday I posted in "What would you do" and the thread has gone dead. This is part of my original post:

At the weekend with family, my 4yo ds out of the blue told his 10yo cousin, a girl, that "A man touched my bits". They were outside playing and no one apart from ds and his cousin were there. This was right before they came inside, with the cousin urging my 4yo to tell me what he had just said, but he said nothing except that it was a "secret." The cousin later told me out of earshot of my son, and later as I was trying to process this (and also how to gently coax more information out of my sone) his cousin was asking him further questions but ds just started talking a bunch of kiddie stuff that didn't seem to be relevant or clearly just fabrications at this point (he was saying "...yes there is a bad mad, who wears a mask, and he's Darth vader etc etc; he likes to tell stories like any 4yo).

Dh and I cannot tell if he was just talking boys stuff (they are obsessed with their "bits" at this age) or if this is in fact him telling his cousin of actual abuse which happened. Ds is only ever at preschool or with us, and realistically the only place this could have happened was at school (he is never out of our sight as a general matter).

Dh and I were advised by the Childline helpline to call CPS to start an investigation and we are frankly almost as terrified of calling CPS as we are of the possibility that something awful in fact has happened to Ds. This morning we did this, only to be told that they can't do anything for us and that our "first port of call" should be the school. The woman on the phone basically said that because Ds hadn't named who touched him, they can't help. Meanwhile, she didn't listen to us telling her that what we want is help to find out if anything DID happen, that is isn't clear...

Dh and I cannot understand how going to the school will help. We have called and of course everyone is away on break. But the fact remains, the Head can't tell us, any more than we can, what DS was really talking about. We were told that CPS would send a "specialist team" to speak to us and Ds to try to figure things out. Now they just seem to have passed the buck and we have no confidence in going back to them.

Has anyone ever experienced this? What should we do now (apart from be very careful about how we speak to the head)?

any advice appreciated.

troisgarcons Wed 01-Jun-11 14:03:03

It's not for you to question him - you aren't trained - you may inadvertently put words into his mouth or ideas into his head.

CPS (Crown prosecution Service???) or CPA (Child Protection Agency) ? Go through your borough and ask to speak to the duty social worker.

phoebe00 Wed 01-Jun-11 14:05:21

I'm sorry... CPS as in Child Protection Services. We called our CPS for the borough and the woman on the phone was the duty social worker.

After this happened we told the cousin and everyone else not to mention it again, and we do not want to ask him ourselves. As you say, the risk is too great that we will just muddy the waters. This is why we were seeking help.

bubblecoral Wed 01-Jun-11 14:13:56

When your child started pre school, did you get a prospectus or anything that contains the schools safeguarding policies? If so, their point of contact could be on there, and it might be a different helpline to the one you tried?

If not, could you get hold of a copy of another school or preschools safeguarding policy, from in the same area as you? they might have the same contact.

Sorry I can't be of more help, that's all I could think of.

Tortu Wed 01-Jun-11 14:36:28

Ok.

Firstly, don't panic (I'm sure this isn't easy!) and be very aware of what the previous poster said, in that you want to be extremely careful that nothing you do or say can later be said to have further confused your child.

Secondly, you also need to be aware that anybody who is told anything by your child will almost certainly be called to testify in court if it does turn out that there has been an issue and somebody gets caught. I know this is a lot of 'ifs', but it's the biggest mistake I made in dealing with my first CP case. Ended up getting the child to tell me infront of four of her friends, as thought their presence would make her feel more comfortable. It did, but a year later when I was dealing with five kids going through court rather than one, I seriously regretted it. I'm warning you with this, as it seems as though several other family members have already discussed it with your child.

Thirdly, I think the school would be the best place to go. Whilst, if there is an issue, this is where you reckon it happened, the school also has somebody specifically trained to deal with CP issues AND will be familiar with your borough's policy- and I'm afraid, each borough does deal with things in slightly different ways. This will definitely be the most efficient way of dealing with the situation.

Fourthly, if you're on half term- and I think for your peace of mind you need to talk to somebody today- contact the council directly. Ask to speak to Child Protection/ Children's services- whatever it is they call it in your area and just explain your situation. The fact that you are potentially talking about a school here should get them sorted today.

Fifthly, try to avoid phoning the police- though this is another route you can try. Whilst they are excellent, I'm afraid I've always found the teams who come when we have a 'blue light' case ruthlessly efficient- as they have to be. Whilst this is the most practical way to get the job done (if they sympathised with every case they dealt with, imagine they'd go mental), it never feels very helpful for the child's emotional state.

OP I have been a Child Protection officer and still have huge quantities of policy documents, however, they are for secondary schools (don't imagine there should be much difference). If you want any, please PM me. And good luck. Hopefully this turns out to be an innocent story!

phoebe00 Wed 01-Jun-11 14:39:19

Thank you, that's a good point. I've just had a look however and the handbook says the protection policy is available upon request...sigh. I've emailed the school as well, so perhaps someone will see it.

Tortu Wed 01-Jun-11 14:46:38

Right. Now I've re-read your post (sorry, scrawled my message really quickly) and have to add a couple more things:

1. There is unlikely to be a team of specially trained people able to deal with a 4 year old who's claiming to have been abused, but might not have been. The borough tend to tackle things when somebody else has already found out what's going on. It certainly looks as though, in your case, you need to find out if there is a need for them to intervene first before they will do so.
2. School then, is your best option, but if you're on half term and you can't wait for term to start again, do it yourself. Either get a taperecorder to tape the conversation, or write down everything that is said and thus you cannot be accused of 'muddying the waters'.
3. In every case that I've dealt with (although it's always been older children), it has never been a surprise i.e. the child has been exhibiting sexualised behaviour, is withdrawn, depressed. Have you noticed a behaviour change? I really hope that nothing has actually happened here.

Sorry, writing speedily again as off out.

phoebe00 Wed 01-Jun-11 14:49:59

Tortu, thank you this is all very helpful. I hadn't realised your first point, although really the only person Ds really talked to is his cousin. He didn't say anything to Dh or myself, and like I said we have put the kibbosh on discussing it further for fear of mucking it up.

I'm still trying to get hold of someone at school, but what I was trying to say is that we did call Child protection for our borough, and this was the woman who rather confused us by telling us to go to the school. So unfortunately I am sat here feeling very useless. We've accepted that we need to go to the school and just want to reach them before school starts again - I am unsure whether I am comfortable to send Ds back to school before we sort this out if indeed something is going on. But on the other hand we don't want to disrupt his normal life...We were really hoping that by calling child protection today that at least we would be on the way to figuring this out. Little did we know that they didn't seem to want to know...

And I agree we don't want to go to the police, as they are bound to act on the basis that a crime has been committed, and then work backwards..and we are simply unsure.

I will try not to panic.. heading out now to get some things done that have waited all day while I wring my hands and wonder what the hell to do...poor ds. I really hope it's nothing but we have to treat it seriously!

phoebe00 Wed 01-Jun-11 14:58:04

Thanks again Tortu... maybe the Childline/NSPCC helpline was wrong to tell us that this is what would happen if we called Child protection (re the "specialist team").

Honestly I am very worried about trying to get more info from Ds..this is really over our heads and messing it up would be a disaster. It is hard to tell with Ds.. he can be a very moody and trying 4yo at times, but he's never been easy. Can't say he is different from the norm, and I am always with him outside of school. He certainly likes to touch his bits and he and his brother will get quite personal in the bath at times, ahem, but it's always been like this and I can honestly say he's never seen or heard of a situation where a "man" touches someone bits, so I'm worried that this thing he said could not have come from his imagination. He's quite articulate and in contrast he did slyly tell me that he and his friend from school (a boy) had been investigating their "bits".. but it was clearly an innocent game. So he doesn't worry about telling me about kids' games but clearly doesn't want to tell me about the "man" story. But we really shouldn't speculate ourselves. This is why I think a professional who knows the signs and knows what to say would really help us.

scurryfunge Wed 01-Jun-11 15:17:41

This sounds very worrying for you.

Your child has made a disclosure and both children need interviewing to establish what has happened. (do not be tempted to record anything you say yourself as you will most definitely muddy the waters).

If you report to the police then that interview will take place to see if there will be a criminal investigation (this is not always the case and with one disclosure and no further material it is unlikely).

It may be decided that a joint investigation is required if a family member is suspected so Social Services will investigate too.It may become a single agency investigation only (Social Services, if the family need support or Police only if an abuser is not related to the family).

It may be there is no need for a criminal investigation at all.

If you believe something has happened and it has happened in school then there needs to be a police investigation.

izzywhizzyletsgetbusy Wed 01-Jun-11 15:21:01

I'm aware that this may not be a popular response, but I would urge you to proceed with extreme caution as male members of your family (including your DH) together with male school staff may needlessly come under suspicion if you raise your concerns with 'the authorities' at this stage.

As you were presumably not in earshot when your ds allegedly divulged to his cousin, is it possible that the cousin has transferred something that may have happened to her to your ds as a way of drawing attention to absue that she may have experienced/is experiencing, or does she like being the centre of attention/important/needed etc?

Have you/or your ds's pre-school begun to discuss 'good and bad secrets' or similar which your ds may currently be processing in his mind (and may have jumbled up with Darth Vadar etc)?

While I understand that you do not wish to muddy the waters/put words into your ds's mouth etc, you know your ds and should be able to gauge whether what he tells you is 'magical thinking' or fact.

I would suggest that when you are enjoying some quiet time alone with your son, perhaps when he's in the bath, you casually mention his conversation with his cousin (do you remember what you said to x the other day about a man who touched your 'bit's) and say something along the lines of 'that wasn't a very nice thing for him to do, was it'? and note his reaction.

If he seems receptive you can follow up with 'where did he touch you?' and then 'do I know this man?'. Unless your ds clearly wants to tell you more, don't go any further than this and, if your ds reveals that there is cause to suspect that he has been sexually abused, do not show any distress and be matter of fact in concluding the conversation with 'I'll have a chat with daddy and we'll see if we can stop this happening to you again'.

If your ds confirms that he has been abused, make a note of what he has told you and contact the police or CPA.

If, despite your best efforts, you can't establish whether anything untoward has occurred, make an appointment to see the Headteacher and raise this matter as a general concern in relation to your child's development and welfare.

bubblecoral Wed 01-Jun-11 15:24:09

Maybe someone at your GP surgery could give you someone to contact? Or the GP could refer your ds to a child psycologist or something. I don't know, just someone impartial and proffessioanl that could make sense of what your ds has said.

I don't know what your GP surgery is like, but I know if I called mine and requested a phonecall from the doctor they would be happy to ring me back to chat about something like this and give some proper advice.

izzywhizzyletsgetbusy Thu 02-Jun-11 03:36:37

I'm bumping this thead because I have some serious concerns about the issue you have raised.

MollyMurphy Thu 02-Jun-11 04:03:48

Well, CPS does not investigate strangers that may have touched a child - the police do (here in Canada anyway). CPS would only get involved IF their was a disclosure and if the child was still exposed to this person (ie, if it was a parent or someone the parent would continue to expose the child to) - because their job is to investigate children who are not safe. Even if something happened, this person is a stanger and you as parents are keeping him safe - so, its not their role IYKWIM?

I would inform the school that you have concerns if you think an incident may have occurred there. They can keep an eye out and advise if they've seen anything that can connect the dots.

If your child makes a disclosure that someone has been inappropriate then I would call the police. Now (and again, I only know about my own province) CPS has a sort of bridge branch with the police for specific sexual abuse cases. Here the police would make a referral to them or sometimes the public can call them direct - I don't know if you area would have something similar?

You have to be really concerned about leading questioning. If you are concerned about your son and are seeing signs of abuse in terms of behaviour changes or just that naggling feeling - you may want to have him go to some counselling sessions. There too the counsellor will be very careful to not lead the child into the topic - but at least it would give him a safe place to bring something up if there is indeed something to bring up.

phoebe00 Thu 02-Jun-11 10:12:41

Well we have tried every which way to contact the school but everyone is off on break, so this will have to wait until next week when everyone is back. Frankly, I am not comfortable with sending DS back to school until we have more information or feel satisfied that something is NOT going on, because school is the only realistic place something could have happened. He is only with me or Dh and while I suppose anything in possible in the universe, this wasn't DH. So the plan now is to very carefully talk to the head (no idea where that will get us but we are very wary) and at the same time find a good child psychologist to help us speak to/address this with Ds. But I really cannot understand the thinking that I should just send him back to school and "keep an eye out" in case anything happens again. To my mind that isn't doing right by ds.

The cousin's mother also gave us a further piece of information which the cousin remembered. The cousin said that right before saying a man touched him, had said something about being really brave and not crying and I'm really brave. Which is weird because I had noticed Ds saying this lately when he falls down or something, and it is not a phrase I say with him (usually I just say, Are you ok> did that hurt?). So i find this even more worrying. But thank you for all the good advice I really appreciate it.

scurryfunge Thu 02-Jun-11 10:45:00

Don't bother with the school -if you believe the school is where any abuse may have happened, it need to be a police investigation.

phoebe00 Thu 02-Jun-11 13:03:39

In a way, I agree.. but then we still really can't be sure if Ds is talking about something real. He's been away with his grandparents this week so we haven't discusses this, and really I am very reluctant to try to bring it up, lest we mess things up. So what I really want is the help and advice of an expert, someone who knows and works with kids in this situation, and as Tortu pointed out above, the police might not be the best people to turn to. But i am feeling really frustrated because we have been given no worthwhile advice, only to go to the school.

Sorry i'm certainly not taking issue with any of the advice I've been given here, but I am seriously wondering why there isn't more help for children in this situation where they clearly don't want to talk about it with their parents. It seems like unless he is ready to say Hey Mummy, X diddled me at X date Y time and Z place, no one is willing to help. We really feel we are on our own here.

scurryfunge Thu 02-Jun-11 13:14:37

That is why you need specialist interviews who are properly trained to talk to him without being lead by family. I cannot see the reluctance with contacting the police -Tortu's advice is misguided her I am afraid. A disclosure has been made and this warrants some investigation (with both children)......phone your local police and ask to speak to an officer within the child protection team for proper advice.

QuackQuackSqueak Thu 02-Jun-11 13:32:47

People say that you shouldn't talk to them about it but I would be tempted to explain to him that no one has the right to tell him to keep a secret from his mum and dad and then maybe ask him if anyone has?

Would that be ok? Can't see that would do any harm.

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