Part 3: Identifying and responding to concerns about children 109 National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021 Version 1.0 September 2021 Involving children and families in child protection processes General principles 3.114 Children must be helped to understand how child protection procedures work, how they can be involved, and how they can contribute to decisions about their future. Children’s views must be sought and listened to at every stage of the child protection process, and given information about the decisions being made as appropriate to their age, stage and understanding. Preparation is needed for key meetings. 3.115 Advocacy services may assist in this process. Consistency of advocacy worker should be sought when they are involved. Within the context of children’s hearings, section 122 of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 has been implemented from 2020, opening up the offer of advocacy nationally. (Advocacy in the Children’s Hearings System – National Practice Model – Guidance ). 3.116 When a child has additional support needs, is deaf or has a hearing impairment, has a disability, or when English is not their first language, advice and support is required to ensure that they are fully involved in what is happening. 3.117 Some children may have experienced grooming, or coercion including threats, and they may fear reprisals if they disclose. In some instances, a child or young person may be too distressed to speak to investigating agencies, or they may believe that they are complicit in the abuse. Materials developed as part of the National Trauma Framework are relevant. 3.118 A thorough assessment should be made of the child or young person’s needs, and services provided to meet those needs. Therapeutic, practical and emotional support may be required. Consideration should be given to confidential and independent counselling services for victims and families. 3.119 Agencies who know the child or adult, including Third Sector organisations, may be involved in planning the investigation to ensure that it is managed in a child-centred way, taking care not to prejudice efforts to collect evidence for any criminal prosecution. Guidelines should be agreed with local Procurators Fiscal and counselling and welfare services on disclosure of information to avoid the contamination of evidence. 3.120 Parents and carers should be treated with respect. Where possible and appropriate they should be leading contributors to safety planning. They should be given as much information as possible about the processes and outcomes of any investigation. Parents and carers should feel confident about their part in safety plans. They need to be confident that practitioners are being open and honest with them so that they, in turn, feel confident about providing vital information about the child, themselves and their circumstances. Working in partnership with one or more family members is likely to have long-term beneficial outcomes for the child, and staff must take account of a family’s strengths as well as its weaknesses. Practitioners must seek to achieve a shared understanding with parents about concerns and about steps needed to ensure safety.