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Section summarised:

What to do if a child in alternative care is injured, abused or dies?

Published by:
Link to Children’s Act 38/2005: Source

The summary:

As a child protection social worker, you will often have to find alternative placement for vulnerable children who have been considered in need of care and protection by your local children’s court.

Sometimes this is for a short period, like 90 days, or longer. Either way, we have all experienced that, unfortunately, some alternative caregivers, whether it be foster parents, place of safety parents or CYCC managers /care takers, often also abuse children. Or, accidents happen and these children can also get injured, and can also die.

What is legally your obligation when this happens?

  • You will receive the report/email/phone call, and hopefully the completed Form 40, from the management of the CYCC or the foster parent or perhaps even the school principal.
  • You will then have to investigate, alongside the police, and record your findings.

What does section 178 say? (Summarised version below)

  • (1) If a child, in a CYCC or in foster care is seriously injured or abused, the person in charge must immediately report the matter to DSD or to you (the designated child protection social worker). You then need to investigate what happened and how.
  • (2) If this child died, this must be reported immediately, to
  • a) Guardian/parents of the child
  • b) A police official
  • c) Provincial DSD
  • d) You (the designated social worker)
  • (3) The police must investigate the death immediately unless the police official is satisfied that the child died of natural causes.

Practical tips

  • Make sure all your CYCCs and foster parents or alternative caregivers have a copy of the Form 40, explain to them what they need to do in this type of situation.
  • Always make sure you do regular checks on the children you placed in alternative care. Your workload is insane and often might not allow for this, but it is critical to prioritise this, see what plan you can make to check on these children regularly. Often feedback from school and random unplanned home visits helps to get the most accurate impression of how the child really is.
  • When the child was injured or abused, remember the basic protocol of opening a case at the police (in cases of sexual abuse) so that the J88 can follow. If it is only an injury and it was an accident (e.g. child falls out of tree) guide caregivers = the child must be taken to a qualified medical doctor immediately.
  • It is always good practice to inform the guardian/biological parents of the child concerned, if the child was injured. Obviously, as you see in Section 178, the guardian/biological parent must be informed in the case of death, but it is good practice to also let them know when abuse/injury occurred. Always discuss these finer details with your office supervisor to be supported in what you do!