This week’s revelation that a former childcare worker has been charged with 1623 sexual abuse offences over a 15-year period has sent shivers down the spine of everyone. To think that a person who has access to children and can commit offences of this type is – and in the words of the Australian Federal Police – “deeply distressing” and “unfathomable.”

It raises a lot of questions as to how he managed committing these acts for so long (and on so many children) without being detected. Were there signs?

Child abuse investigations are the most challenging to manage for a variety of reasons. For an organisation that has done everything to ensure a safe space for a child, allegations of child abuse can cause serious reputational damage. Let alone the impact on the victims. All perpetrators use stealth as a weapon to commit their crimes. They rely on the mentality they will never be disclosed by the victims they prey on. Most, if not all organisations that deal with children have safeguards in place, then why do we constantly read about a flow of alleged offenders committing crime against young children?

Get in touch for a no obligation chat about how we can help here.

Even if a child never discloses anything, that should not prevent those working within the industry to look for indicators of abuse and neglect. These indicators may ultimately be of no concern, but without having the necessary skills to detect changes and make enquiries, it can remain unchecked. Behavioural changes in children may be caused by a myriad of things; the child has moved into a different family environment, or the child may be maturing and has picked up habits elsewhere.

However, frontline workers should be on the alert for indicators such as –

  • wearing layers of clothes
  • unusual fear of physical contact with adults (flinches when unexpectedly touched)
  • sudden accumulation of money or gifts that is otherwise unexplained
  • being lured via the internet/social media platforms for sexual purposes.

A range of difficulties and behaviours can indicate trauma and abuse. These include:

  • developmental delays
  • regression in developmental abilities – such as in speech or toileting
  • infant does not cry to seek to have their needs met
  • frequent rocking, sucking and biting which is not age appropriate
  • significant difficulties within the parent-child relationship
  • educational difficulties – such as a sudden decline in academic performance, poor school
  • difficulties with memory, concentration, attention and disruptive behaviour
  • parentified behaviours
  • fear or avoidance of home and/or family member(s), particularly if the perpetrator is in the family home and/or running away
  • significant sleep difficulties – such as poor sleeping patterns, significant fear of the dark, nightmares, persistent bedwetting
  • persistent enuresis or encopresis (persistent wetting or soiling self)
  • poor self-care or personal hygiene.

These indicators may be easily accountable. However if inappropriate behaviour continues without some justification, you must engage and have conversations that will either alleviate or heighten your concerns.

Are your staff adequately trained in safeguarding and child protection?

Do they know what to look for and, most importantly, take the necessary actions to investigate the irregularities? Smoke doesn’t always mean there’s a fire but better to not get burnt by ignorance.

Safeguarding is a specific set of skills to do the necessary things to mitigate risk in child protection, communicate effectively with children and take necessary action. At the Professional Investigators College of Australasia (PICA) we have staff that have worked in child protection environments for decades. We’ve developed specific training to help your staff deal with these issues.

Reach out to the PICA team to discuss how we can help your business below: