Reporting in practice: a study on childcare practitioner's views towards the introduction of mandatory reporting of children at risk.
It is now a legal requirement in Ireland under the Children First Act (2015) for all those coming into contact with children through their work to report cases of suspected child abuse or neglect. However, for quite some time the literature has illustrated complex issues surrounding the reporting of concerns of child maltreatment (Stanley & Goddard 2002; Horwath, 2007; Brandon, Belderson, Warren, Howe, Gardner, Dodsworth &Black, 2008; Ferguson, 2011; Buckley, 2014; NSPCC, 2014). The current study expands and contributes updated information on previous research surrounding the reporting of child abuse. Moreover, it was the first study of this topic to be conducted since the introduction of mandatory reporting in Ireland. The aim of the study was to explore the views of childcare practitioners within the setting of an Afterschool Project regarding the introduction of mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect. The practitioners were chosen in this setting as they have a lot of daily contact with the children using their service. To fulfil the main goal of the research three objectives were considered. Firstly, to find out the views of practitioners in relation to mandatory reporting of children considered to be risk. Next to explore how equipped practitioners felt in relation to reporting suspected cases of child maltreatment. Finally, the practitioners were asked to recommend ways they could be assisted regarding the process of mandatory reporting in their work contents. The research instrument chosen to conduct the investigation was a qualitative method using semi-structured interviews, focusing on a small cohort of six practitioners. The interviews took place between the 15th and 19th of April 2016. Followed by an examination of the data using a thematic analysis to organise and give structure to the findings. The findings were consistent with previous research highlighting complex issues and fears surrounding the reporting of child abuse. The main findings showed practitioners had all received training required for reporting concern of child abuse 3 which is covered in the Children First Guidelines (Department of Children and Youth Affairs, 2011) (DCYA). However, the practitioners believed they would benefit from taking a refresher course. The evidence also indicated varied practices being used surrounding the process of reporting. Furthermore, the results identified a gap in the training of the Children First Guidelines (DCYA, 2011) for some members of the agency. In addition the need to identify the designated liaison person within the agency to all members was signposted. Overall the results inferred a general understanding of mandatory reporting. However the main findings highlighted above showed insufficiencies in the following of procedures outlined in the Children First Act (2015). The implication for practice is matters concerning child protection may not be deal with efficiently. The researcher thought the evidence of deficiencies could be resolved with further training in the Children First Guidelines (DCYA, 2011).
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