Child Protection in Southwell Diocese

In view of the continuing media and public concerns over child protection issues, I thought I would share with people in the parishes, the very positive achievements of the partnership between the Diocese and Family Care who aim to keep children and young people safer from harm.

Family Care has a long history of supporting children and adults who have experienced some form of abuse.

We continue to support adoptive families and their children who have experienced physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. In recent years damage in the womb by drug abuse, neglect and under-nourishment are also some of the reasons for children being placed for adoption - our Family worker also supports adult survivors of abuse.

It was because of this that Family Care, was approached by the Diocese in 1992 to provide training on the Pastoral care of survivors of child sexual abuse.

From 1993 to 1996 we were involved in the early stages of preparing a Diocesan Child Protection policy and training for children and youth workers. The final policy was agreed by Synod in 1996 and entitled "Children and Young people First".

The House of Bishop's required Dioceses to have such a policy in place by 1995, so Southwell was able to contribute to this specialised national learning. The Diocese has continued to set a lead by agreeing a policy with regard to the management of risk and pastoral care of offenders in parishes and in launching the ecumenical policy and training programme for the County.

Deirdre Offord has been the Diocesan Child Protection Co-ordinator since 1997 and has established excellent working relationships with colleagues in Social services, police and probation; which has helped individuals and parishes deal with this issue.

We realise that "stranger" danger and murders, account for only 1 in 7 of all child deaths. Even at the level of all abuse, children are most at risk by adults who know them or who are part of their family network. There are two ways we can help. We can ensure that every one who takes care of children is "checked", adheres to good practice and receives support and supervision. Equally, we all need to be better at communicating with young people so that we are sensitive to their concerns and disclosures.

Each decade brings new learning and challenges. We now realise that exposure to the sounds and sights of domestic violence can be damaging to children and the abuse of children through the making of pornographic material for website access as well as through its viewing will need our utmost wisdom to deal with.

Since 2001, Family Care has also been chosen as the base for John Creedon the Child protection Co-ordinator for the Nottingham Catholic diocese. This is another opportunity for us to co-operate in strategies to protect children across denominations and to add to our learning and experience in this daunting field.

I hope you are encouraged that the church is tackling these issues so positively. Please pray for Deirdre and John in their work as they handle so much that is contaminating of faith that they will be protected and given the wisdom that they need.

Muriel Weisz, Director of Family Care
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 21st May 2003