Child Protection Week 2021: "Child wellbeing at the forefront"

This week is National Child Protection Week, a week where we focus on strengthening families, and communities, and supporting our children to feel safe, secure, and connected in healthy relationships to the significant people in their lives.

The current COVID crisis is a challenging time for many families. Many of the usual ways of staying connected to those that can support us are not as easy to do during this crisis.

The Child Protection Unit is comprised of a multidisciplinary team of social workers, doctors, occupational therapists, child life therapists and support staff to help these children and their families. The Unit also works closely with clinical teams who suspect a patient has been harmed or neglected to provide advice and next steps.

“Within the Network, we work closely with the clinical teams so if they have concerns, they are able to call us - our service is open 24/7 – and we can help manage the delicate situation. As a Network, we provide advice for paediatricians across the state so if they have concerns about a child, they will give us a call and we can provide guidance and counsel,” said Monica.

Across the SCHN, the Units work towards this priority by providing critical support and therapy to children and young people who have experienced the trauma of abuse or neglect.

“We help them make sense of their experiences and use creative tools to help them talk about their experience”, said Social Worker, Sarah from The Children’s Hospital at Westmead (CHW). “If they can’t use words and we help them find strategies to help manage their stress and emotions to help them through their crisis”.

“We do activities to help them learn how to self-regulate. It’s not just games. It’s partly that but it’s also teaching them how to remain calm and regulate themselves for when their emotions become heightened or dysregulated,” said Senior Social Worker, Alana from Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick (SCH).

During lockdown, the teams are adamant to maintain regular contact and support for their patients and have quickly adapted to providing their service through Telehealth. Maintaining routine for these children is absolutely crucial in these times.

“We do what we can to maintain that therapeutic connection with the child. When they have experienced trauma, predictability is really important for them so what we have tried to do is be really flexible and adaptive so children can continue to receive that same service but through an online experience,” explained Alana.

“Being online does have its own challenges but it has brought us an opportunity to meet other family members, their sibling and even their pets. Being able to share that with their counsellor,  there is a real therapeutic gain in that. It helps us nurture the relationship, build engagement, connection and trust with each of our patients”.

The Child Protection Units across the Network are committed to the wellbeing of children and really advocating for them.

“We recognise that children often don’t have a voice and can feel powerless because of their circumstances. We feel that we can be the voice of those kids and make sure they are seen and heard. Child wellbeing is at the forefront of everything we do,” said Sarah.

Warnings signs

Our Child Protection Units offer the following advice if you suspect a child is exposed to harmful behaviour: 

  • Listen to the child/young person and what they are saying
  • Look out for concerning behaviours  
  • Talk to someone about your concerns, this could be:
    - The Child Protection Helpline 132 111
    - The Child Protection Unit (Westmead 9845 0000 or Randwick 9382 1111)
    - For immediate concerns contact the Police 000
  • Let the child/young person know that you believe them and that you will speak to somebody to request some help to keep them safe

This week is National Child Protection Week (5-11 September) and with the theme of “Protecting children is everybody’s business”, is aimed at prioritising the safety and wellbeing of children in all aspects of our lives. For more information, visit the NAPCAN website


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