Child Protection Guidance 2021

Part 4: Specific support needs and concerns 139 National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021 Version 1.0 September 2021 4.49 Parental use of alcohol and/or drugs can play a dynamic and reciprocal part in the causes and consequences of mental ill health. Early trauma and current domestic abuse can reinforce a cumulative cycle of harm in which individuals are known to child protection systems. Safety is likely to depend on persistent support for parents with complex interacting difficulties, especially if they disengage or disguise their own struggles when risks to children are rising. 4.50 Child protection assessment should consider the emotional accessibility and reliability of parents or carers. Child Protection Plans should aim to support these qualities. 4.51 Children are affected when a parent is unable to anticipate or prioritise his or her needs, and by a parent’s distress, disturbance, delusions and lack of insight. Children may also be deeply affected when separated from a parent who is ill. In many instances the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified this stress and protective planning in these circumstances includes maintenance of connections for the child’s wellbeing. Article 9 of the UNCRC outlines requirements of public authorities when a child is lawfully separated from parents, in their best interests. Article 9.3 requires public authorities to respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s best interests. 4.52 Some children take on premature caring responsibilities due to parental illness. Child protection in this context requires compassionate recognition of parental experience in this dynamic, while remaining focused on the child’s needs. Whenever safely possible, widening the circle of support and building on family strengths may be key to sustained protective planning. 4.53 Where adult mental health services, community learning disability services and specialist Third Sector supports are involved, children’s safety must be considered in planning support for parents. Where information sharing is necessary, this is a two way process between adult and children’s services. 4.54 The COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated the need for planned support for those families who are experiencing significant adversity, including infant developmental difficulties, parental substance misuse, domestic abuse and trauma (Scottish Government 2020). This support is crucial in the perinatal period – from conception to one year after a baby is born (Perinatal and infant mental health | NHS Education for Scotland) . 4.55 Child protection processes often increase feelings of anxiety, stigma and isolation. The tone of engagement can accelerate or defuse risk of harm and self-harm. Recognition of the parent’s experience is a starting point. Resources and References – Mental health Children and young people experiencing mental health problems 4.56 Children can experience a range of mental health problems, from depression and anxiety through to psychosis. While most will recover, many are left with unresolved difficulties or undiagnosed illnesses that can follow them into adult life. Parents and carers may be bewildered or frightened by their child’s behaviour, or concerned that they are the cause of such behaviour. Child protection may be a component of the service response to children and young people experiencing mental health problems. Local training and policy should reflect the need for awareness of these issues.