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By Christine Hobart; Jill Frankel

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List the advantages and disadvantages of allowing young children to make their own decisions. 40 GOOD PRACTICE IN SAFEGUARDING CHILDREN Families show considerable variation in how they bring up children. Recognise the differences and do not leap to conclusions. Do not assume that certain religious or ethnic groups always behave in a particular fashion. These variations between and within families lead to the richness of today’s diverse society. Be non-judgemental and open-minded and avoid stereotyping, but if you consider that abuse is taking place in a family, you must challenge this, as the interests of the child are paramount.

The government’s efforts to deal with this issue reflect increasing pressure to act, pressure from campaigners and from international institutions. There is a reluctance to totally prohibit smacking as they do not wish to be seen as a ‘nanny state’ and perhaps arouse parental hostility. In July 1979 Sweden became the first country to ban all forms of corporal punishment of children by all carers, including parents. A report in February 2000 by Joan Durrant for Save the Children Fund showed that: ■ youth crime rates did not rise; ■ the proportion of youth convicted of theft declined by 21%; ■ between 1970 and 1996 the proportion of youths involved in narcotics crimes declined by 75%; ■ young people’s drug and alcohol intake and suicide rates also declined; ■ during the 1980s no Swedish child died as a result of physical abuse; ■ four children were killed between 1990 and 1996 but only one at the hands of a parent; ■ the number of children coming into care has decreased by 26% since 1982.

You may become concerned: ■ through observations you may record of a child; ■ because of allegations made by a child or another person; ■ because of disclosure of the abuse from a child or from the perpetrator. In general, when a child has been abused, more than one type of abuse or neglect is present. If a child has been a victim of physical or sexual abuse, it is important to consider the emotional effect on the child’s intellectual development and behaviour — the whole child needs to be considered.

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