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3.7.12.4 Good Practice Guidance concerning Issues of Equality, Diversity and Sexuality for Looked After Children


Contents

  1. Policy
  2. Practice


1. Policy

  1. All children and young people have a right to be treated equally and have their disability, gender, ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic needs met;
  2. Children and young people who are Looked After must not be exploited or abused as a result of being cared for away from their own families;
  3. Any incidents of abuse or conduct towards a child who is looked after as a result of their race, religion, gender, sexuality or disability will be reported to the Police;
  4. All staff/carers must reflect and positively affirm the rich diversity of the communities in Hillingdon, and U.K. society. This includes understanding issues which need to be positively challenged with regard to disability, ethnicity, gender, religion, culture and sexuality;
  5. All staff/carers need to develop their knowledge and skills in working with children and young people from a different gender, ethnicity, culture and religion or with disabilities;
  6. Children and young people have a right to explore their own identity and sexuality. It is therefore important for staff/carers to work with children and young people regarding their own developing understanding of their identity, and to provide information/support/guidance about health, development and sexuality;
  7. Staff/carers who become aware of or are suspicious that there is a sexual relationship between two residents must discuss this with their line manager/supervising social worker and the relevant children's social workers to ensure appropriate actions are taken to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring - see also London Child Protection Procedures Manual, Safeguarding Sexually Active Children Procedure;
  8. Staff/carers who become aware of or are suspicious there is a sexual relationship between a resident and a member of staff must report the matter immediately to their line manager or other responsible manager in line with the London Child Protection Procedures Manual, Allegations Against Staff or Volunteers, Who Work with Children;
  9. How staff/carers use their personal power and authority is very important, as the experience of becoming looked after can be disempowering for children and young people. All staff/carers must work to empower children and young people to ensure their rights are not abused;
  10. All staff/carers should remember that they will have a significant impact on the child's life and should therefore bear this in mind when dealing with everyone. Equality is an issue for all staff/carers and one that should take the highest priority;
  11. If staff/carers feel unsure of the issues relating to equalities, they should seek advice of colleagues, discuss in supervision, and seek training to help them recognise the dilemmas and deal with them better.


2. Practice

Gender

  1. Gender issues are extremely important to both young men and young women. In their adolescence, young people will explore what being either male or female means to them;
  2. Staff/carers who are the opposite gender to the child must always be aware of possible related issues in all dealings with that child;
  3. Staff/carers in dealing with any child or young person of the opposite gender needs to think, before any work is undertaken, about the effects that s/he may have on that child or young person;
  4. Staff/carers need to be careful not to stereotype children and young people according to their gender. All staff/carers are role models, and therefore offer implicit messages. All Looked After children and young people need to be encouraged to develop their full potential.

Sexuality

  1. Sexuality is to do with feelings and relationship between individuals, and a sense of self/identity how this is expressed;
  2. Staff/carers are in the role of parent/befriender with a child or young person and must consider what this means about how they approach a child or young person. It is important they are aware that young people's feelings/understanding about forming close and supportive relationships have the potential to become confused with sexual feelings;
  3. Staff/carers must also be aware of how the child or young person may approach them, and again respond in a parenting/befriending role. Children and young people will need reassurance regarding the nature of the relationship, and their roles within it;
  4. Staff/carers acting in a parenting/befriending role will display appropriate affection (e.g. with the child's permission a cuddle when distressed is displaying appropriate affection). See also Touch Guidance;
  5. A caring and concerned approach, gives the child or young person a sense of security and safety.

Role/Responsibilities of Staff/Carers

  1. Children and young people developing a sense of identity, and learning to become adults are likely to look to staff/carers to learn how to behave to achieve the kind of relationships they need;
  2. Staff/carers can best help children and young people to develop self awareness by showing them that adults can have relationships that are not necessarily sexual in nature;
  3. Link workers/foster carers are in a pivotal position when advising young people about sexual relationships. This work needs careful planning. All staff needs to be aware of the possibility of a young person becoming sexually attracted to them and discuss/seek guidance/support from their supervisor, as necessary;
  4. Often in an attempt to appear mature a child or young person may not acknowledge the dangers of developing sexual relationships;
  5. Staff/carers must be aware of their feelings towards a young person. Any concerns about their feelings towards a particular child or young person must be reported to their manager/supervising social worker;
  6. All staff/carers need to consider their own feelings about sexuality and must offer constructive and non-judgmental advice to young people. If they do not feel safe to explore these issues, they should discuss this with their supervising social worker/manager;
  7. All staff/carers should have factual knowledge of HIV/AIDS, including where to obtain information if a child/young person requests it (e.g. information leaflets, liaison with the Designated Nurse Looked After Children).

Children and Young People

  1. All children and young people should be allowed to explore issues of sexuality in a safe, caring environment. As far as possible, discussions around sexuality should be led by the young person, at a time when s/he is ready. Staff should try to keep the discussion factual and accurate, but not boring, as this will discourage young people from seeking information;
  2. Staff must be prepared to protect young people from the unwelcome attentions of other young people, and also help them to explore ways of protecting themselves outside the unit;
  3. The aim of any work on sexuality and personal relationships should be to encourage debate, and look at different points of view;
  4. Young people must be made aware of the age of consent and why there is such a law;
  5. Information concerning contraception should be available - see Provision of Contraception and Contraceptive Advice Procedure;
  6. Children and young people with disabilities have the same emotional needs as other young people, but may not have the means of expressing their feelings. Staff/carers needs to be particularly sensitive to issues of disability and sexuality;
  7. All children and young people, especially those who may have a learning disability, or who are developmentally immature, will need help to work on these issues. However, it is recognised that it is difficult, even for experienced and skilled staff, to enable some young people to begin to understand complex human relationships, and how these are affected by exploration of issues of sexuality.

Dealing with Personal Relationships between Children and Young People

  1. All children and young people are likely to need staff/carers to be able to help them in dealing with feelings and emotions towards other children and young people;
  2. Staff/carers need to be aware that not all children and young people will be at the same stage of emotional development, even if they are the same age. Since young people will mature at different times, staff/carers must expect a range of behaviours;
  3. Staff/carers need to be aware of the developmental milestones that all children go through in growing up, and what is to be expected in the way of "normal" behaviour, at each stage of development (see the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families).

Boundaries

  1. Staff/carers need to set appropriate parental boundaries for children and young people;
  2. Sexual relationships between children within the placement cannot be condoned. These relationships are often based on low self-esteem and need for approval, as well as replicating individual abuse patterns from the young person's history;
  3. The principle of the age of consent and appropriate behaviour within group living needs to be adhered to;
  4. It is not appropriate for those below the age of consent to engage in sexual activity within their home - see London Child Protection Procedures Manual, Safeguarding Sexually Active Children Procedure;
  5. On all occasions sexually explicit provocative and degrading language from children and young people, staff/carers, other professionals and visitors must be challenged. Incidents of persistent difficulties must be reported to the Unit Manager in order to ensure an appropriate strategy is put in place and monitored.

Race and Ethnicity:

  1. All races and ethnic communities should be treated by all staff/carers as being of equal value and should be respected;
  2. It is important to treat all children and young people as individuals. To treat any person the same on the basis of his or her skin colour is to deny the differences between individuals;
  3. Staff/carers need to understand that to see no differences between black and white residents is to deny that the issues of race and racism exist. The differences are there because the life experiences of black children are different to the life experiences of white children;
  4. Black children and young people will have experienced direct and indirect racism prior to being Looked After. It is likely that suspicion, mistrust of, or at the very least, reticence of white adults will have been learned over a number of years. Staff/carers need to be vigilant that this does not increase when a black child enters the looked after system;
  5. Racist behaviour and language must be positively confronted and challenged (with an emphasis on education and empathy building) and if appropriate reported and dealt with.

Religion

  1. All religions should be treated by all staff/carers as being of equal value, and should be respected;
  2. Staff/carers need to be aware of the importance to some children and young people of the religious observance of their family's traditional religion;
  3. Not all children and young people will feel strongly about their religion, but some will;
  4. Depending on their previous circumstances not all children and young people will have had the opportunity of following their own religion (e.g. there has not been a place of worship nearby);
  5. It is also possible that a child or young person may not have been encouraged to explore their own religious teachings. It is important therefore that staff/carers take responsibility for learning about the range of religious teachings available in the U.K., as this may affect other parts of the residents' life such as clothing and food;
  6. For some children and young people, the need for acceptance by a group of peers may have been more important than the open acceptance of their religion. Within the placement, staff/carers must enable children and young people to explore issues around their own religion if they choose to;
  7. Where staff/carers are not familiar with the religious customs of a particular child or young person, s/he should discuss this in supervision and seek advice from members of that religion, or other sources.

Culture

  1. All cultures should be accepted by staff/carers as being of equal value, and should be respected;
  2. All cultures will have some differences, and the experiences of those who grow up in them will be different;
  3. All staff/carers will need to take individual responsibility to raise their own awareness of the differences between cultures, and respect a young person's need to be proud of their cultural heritage;
  4. Staff/carers need to take account of the young person's view of his/her life before any work can be undertaken. The Care Plan and Placement Plan should take into account cultural issues in establishing the areas that the child or young person needs to work on;
  5. Where a child or young person is of mixed parentage, it is important for them to understand both races and cultures. S/he may feel that s/he belongs to one culture and rejects the other. Staff/carers must help the child or young person explore why s/he has rejected one rather than the other, and the implications for his or her sense of identity;
  6. Children and young people of mixed parentage have the added difficulty of being seen by others in different ways that may conflict with their view of themselves. Staff/carers should help the child/young person begin to develop coping mechanisms in order to develop a sense of identity that s/he is proud of.

Disability

  1. All children and young people should be respected for the person that they are, irrespective of any disability that they may have;
  2. All children and young people with disabilities have something positive to offer and this should be explored with them;
  3. Children and young people with disabilities need to be treated as normally as possible, with the same expectations of behaviour as others of the same age. However, in looking after children with learning difficulties or who are developmentally delayed, staff need to have regard to their understanding as well as their actual age;
  4. All children and young people should be encouraged to develop to their full potential, and all staff/carers have a role in assisting them achieve this;
  5. When a child or young person who has a disability (emotional, physical or developmental) is placed, the staff/carers must obtain advice, guidance and support via supervision as to how best to develop a good working relationship with him or her. Other agencies (e.g. Children with Disabilities Team, Child Development Centre, GP) can be sources of advice, guidance and support. The primary task of the staff/carers is to enable the child to take as much responsibility as is possible for his/her life decisions.

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