- Provision of Information and Advice
- Puberty and Sexual Identity
- Under Age Sexual Relationships
- Pregnancy and Termination
- Working with Young Fathers
- Sexual Exploitation
- Sexually Transmitted Infections
1. Provision of Information and Advice
Children in Care must be provided with appropriate, accurate and up to date information and advice on matters relating to sexual health and relationships.Before providing such information and advice, staff/carers should consult the child's social worker-who will consult the child's parents as appropriate-to ensure any such information and advice are provided in the context of the child's backgrounds and needs; and any specific arrangements must be incorporated into the child's Placement Plan.
2. Puberty and Sexual Identity
All staff and carers must adopt a supportive and non-judgemental attitude toward children, particularly as they mature and develop an awareness of their bodies and sexuality.
The same approach must be adopted towards children who explore or are confused about their sexual identity, gender identity or who have decided to embrace a particular lifestyle.
Children who are confused about their sexuality or gender identity or indicate they have a preference must be afforded equal access to accurate information, education and support to enable them to move forward positively.As necessary this must be addressed in Placement Plan.
The use of online filters can help to ensure that younger children do not accidentally access pornographic or sexual images online. See UK Safer Internet for more information.
Older young people are likely to be curious about sex and relationships and may search for online for pornographic or sexual material. It is important that staff have an open discussion with young people about pornographic images and the impact that viewing these can have on young people and their own developing relationships. The NSPCC have produced comprehensive guidance for parents and carers on how to talk to young people about online porn and healthy relationships.
For more information please see Online porn - Advice on how to talk to your child about the risks of online porn and sexually explicit material (NSPCC).
4. Under Age Sexual Relationships
If there is any suspicion that a child under the age of 18 is being abused or exploited, this must be discussed with the social worker and consideration given to making a referral under West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures.
Should staff or carers identify that children are engaging in under age sexual relationships, they should:
- Ensure the basic safety of all the children concerned;
- Notify the manager/supervising social worker, who should notify/consult the relevant social worker;
- Record all events, distinguishing between fact and opinion.
Staff/carers should identify local sources of professional help and information for children and can accompany them to clinics if requested to do so.
Condoms are the most easily available, non-prescribed form of contraception. They also protect against many sexually transmitted infections.
6. Pregnancy and Termination
If a child is suspected or known to be pregnant, their social worker, staff and carers should talk openly to the child about who should be informed and what support the child may require to promote their own and the unborn baby's welfare.
Under normal circumstances, the child's parent(s) should be informed and be part of drawing up a suitable plan for the promotion of the welfare of the pregnant child and the unborn child.
However, a child who has reached the age of 16 may request that their parent(s) are not informed. In these circumstances, the child should be encouraged to share the information with their parents and this must be discussed with the child's social worker in order that a decision can be made as to the way forward.
Where a child under 16 makes such a request, the child's social worker should seek legal advice before agreeing that the parents should not be informed.In all cases, should there be suspicions that the pregnant child and/or the unborn child are at risk of Significant Harm, the child's social worker must take action under the West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures.
Any decision to terminate a pregnancy should be reached by the pregnant child. Advice, counselling and support in making the decision must only be given by suitably qualified independent counsellors.
If the pregnant child decides to terminate the pregnancy, the child's social worker and staff/carers must ensure that adequate support is given throughout and afterwards to ensure the child's privacy is protected and any physical or emotional needs are addressed sensitively.
7. Working with Young Fathers
This can be a difficult area of work because the choice and responsibility in decisions relating to the baby lies with the mother. Regardless of how the mother views the situation, young fathers still need to be supported. The following points should be addressed:
- What does the young man want his role to be?
- Does this conflict with what the young woman wants? If so, how will this be managed?
- How will you support him to deal with his thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears?
- How can he play an active role in the child's life?
- Is the young man clear about his legal rights, choices and responsibilities in relation to his child?
8. Sexual Exploitation
Children abused through sexual exploitation should benefit from multi-agency planning and services that ensure the child's immediate protection, and provide longer term support.
Staff/carers need to be alert to any behaviour that might indicate that the child is involved in sexual exploitation or at risk of becoming involved. This should be discussed in supervision and a response strategy agreed. Concerns should be shared with the child:
- Look out for warning signs-changes in appearance, getting lifts home from strangers, coming home having eaten yet not having had to pay for food, having credit on mobile phones that can't be accounted for or updated mobile phones, mood changes, different language, new style of dress, new possessions, truanting from school, losing touch with old friends, telling lies, using drugs, a new name, staying out at night;
- Children may need you to act as their advocate regarding liaison with other agencies;
- Children often have immediate practical support needs upon which you can build a relationship;
- Be supportive and non-judgmental.
Where there is any suspicion that a child is being abused or exploited it should be addressed in the child's Placement Plan. If a child is being sexually exploited, the Regulatory Authority, local authority and Police for the area where the child is placed, must be informed.
Relevant West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures
9. Sexually Transmitted Infections
It is the absolute right of children to have information and advice on safer sex, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted infections. In providing such advice and guidance to children, it is important that they are made aware that there are many safer and pleasurable alternatives to penetrative sex, for example, stroking, exploration of erogenous zones, sucking, kissing, licking, or mutual masturbation.
Children should be encouraged and supported to take responsibility for their own sexual well being, acknowledging cultural diversity. The opportunity to discuss this with staff/carers and a variety of health professionals should be available.
With regard to sexually transmitted infections including HIV, children should be advised of clinics where anonymity and appropriate pre and post testing counselling are available. They should be made aware that, if they are tested by their G.P., then the results of this will be recorded in their medical notes and these may be available to prospective employers etc. in the future. There is, however, complete confidentiality at STI clinics.
It is accepted that masturbation is part of normal sexual behaviour but children must be positively encouraged to undertake such activities in private and in a manner that is not harmful to themselves or other people.