Child protection issue?(8 Posts)
I regularly see a family on the bus and am concerned about the children but not sure if it's a child protection issue. There’s mum, dad, boy (about 2 or 3) and girl (about 4). The children look very dirty – I don’t mean like children who’ve been playing in the park and got a bit muddy, I mean extremely dirty clothes and sometimes dirty faces (although that could be the chocolate they’re eating!) The little girl has a coat which is coming apart at the seams and was probably once a pale pink but is going grey with dirt. One time I saw her and it was smeared all down the front with dirt, it was actually shocking how dirty it was, and I am not the sort of person who thinks children should be pristine all the time. The boy’s jumper is going threadbare at the seams and the sleeves look very grubby – the fabric is going a sort of grey colour with dirt and wear and tear.
Also the parents are constantly telling the children off – I mean during the 15 minute bus journey there is literally not one positive interaction. They are constantly telling them off in a really snarling, aggressive manner, for what does not even appear to be misbehaviour, e.g. the children just wanting to look out of the window / press the button on the bus / play with the seat that folds down – just the usual stuff children of this age would do on a bus particularly if no one was engaging with them. When the parents are not telling the children off they are ignoring them – e.g. both parents engrossed in their phones and only looking up to tell the children off or shout at them. It is very uncomfortable to watch but the children don’t seem particularly distressed by it, I get the impression they’re so used to the telling off they hardly register it.
I don’t know whether to interpret it as poverty and poor parenting, or actual neglect. If it’s the latter, what could I do? I don’t know anything about this family except which bus they get and the children’s and dad’s first names.
I really don't know what you can do with such limited information.
It would sound to me like neglect, but again, I don't know what you can do without more information. Is the older girl on her way to school? I take it there's no uniform?
This story shows your caring nature and your will to look after children you see as being in need. Yes I am sure that witnessing this regularly must be very unnerving and I too would want to do something. I think I would be cringeing all the way home!
I worked in children's homes with suffers of abuse; so I hope I can provide some insight. The difficulty with neglect/emotional abuse cases is that they are notoriously subtle - so getting real 'evidence' is very difficult - even when you are professionally involved with the families. Some of what you see seems consistent with neglect - children acting up to get attention for example. However; you are not privvy to full information of family circumstances outside of the bus journey. Cases often move up the priority scale when behaviours are seen for a number of months - by which point people are asking what new strategies have been introduced to discontinue any decline. Just explaining the legal climate. Not one 'abuse' case is the same as the next.
Sometimes is not about trying to work out the reasons that children are growing up like this (poverty, lack of parenting skills, lack of washing machine, non-bonding, parents own history of abuse) - families operate to all kinds of different standards. Its just about saying - this does not feel/look right and it is generally unacceptable to have children live like this. I think you have something when you say that the kids have stopped listening to their parents' shouts - I call it 'glazed' expression.
However; at the moment you do not have enough factual info. to even report what you see - bus and first names won't help any agency identify the children properly. You are also not in the position to ask the family questions (I can imagine how that would go down on a bus!). Any agency that might pick this up would be asking how you came to your impressions of the family. They will need to separate the physical evidence - threadbare, filthy clothing, children ignoring parents and your impression of what is happening (which they would call circumstantial evidence).
If you continue to be worried; I would suggest a call to Childline/NSPCC or other such aids to children. It will be a chance to unload; and also discuss their procedures for reporting and what evidence is needed. The internet also has basic child protection procedure info.
The children are all under school age and I imagine not being seen by a health visitor/G.P. But once they get to school/other childcare service; they are likely to be picked up on.
In the meantime; if there is any escalation/physicality - you can ask the bus driver to stop, make out he/she has had a call on his/her phone (or other cover story) and ask him to call the police (first call for Emergency Protection Procedures).
Because cases like these are hugely emotionally demanding and legally complex - I would always suggest that professionals in that area of work deal with it - should reporting become possible.
It must be very frustrating to sit there and watch- but its hard facts that often get the process of Protection started.
Every empathy for the children right now though. If they are being subject to what you suspect -truth always outs!
Thank you, I have emailed the NSPCC. I don't know what more info I can give, short of potentially photographing them on my phone or staying on the bus til they get off to get a better idea of where they live - but not sure either of those things are ethical to do!
If you have the children's and dad's first names they may be on the SS books. You could check with them, they might know the family already?
You should have a local safeguarding board where multi agencies work together to safeguard children. I don't think there is anything unethical about staying on the bus to see where they get off. You are a paying passenger and entitled to sit on the bus all day long if you so choose. I wouldn't follow them home that is Saling too close to the wind. Saying leave it to school is not the answer children like this are often kept away from school and other services. If these children are not picked up they could be another baby P, Victoria Climbie or Daniel Pelka. This age of children are amongst the most vulnerable children in our society. They need protecting, every piece of information you can gather maybe a piece in the puzzle that gets the family help.
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