for responding to signs of domestic violence or child abuse
The competent authority of Psymobil considering
• that Psymobil is responsible for providing quality services to its clients and that this responsibility is specifically relevant to services to clients who are or may be affected by domestic violence or child abuse;
• that the professionals employed by Psymobil share this responsibility and are therefore expected, in all their dealings with clients, to be attentive to signs that may indicate domestic violence or child abuse and to respond effectively to these signs;
• that Psymobil wishes to draw up a reporting code so that the professionals it employs know what steps they are expected to take if they observe signs of domestic violence or child ab use;
• that, in this reporting code, Psymobil will also establish how it will assist the professionals it employs in carrying out these steps;
• that ‘domestic violence’ is defined as (threats of) physical, mental or sexual violence committed by a person in the victim’s domestic circle, ‘violence’ being defined as physical, sexual or psychological harm to the victim’s personal integrity, and includes senior abuse, female genital mutilation, forced marriage and honour-based violence. The victim’s domestic circle includes partners and former partners, family members, relatives and housemates;
• that ‘child abuse’ is defined as any threatening or violent interaction of a physical, psychological or sexual nature with a child imposed actively or passively by the parents or other persons with whom the child is in a relationship of dependency or constraint, which causes or is liable to cause serious harm to the child in the form of physical or psychological injury. It includes honour-based violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and the child witnessing violence between parents and/or other members of the household;
• that ‘professional’ is defined as the professional employed by Psymobil who provides the organisation’s clients with care, counselling, education or other forms of assistance;
• that ‘client’ is defined as any person to whom the professional provides professional services. Taking into account:
• the Personal Data Protection Act;
• the Youth Care Act, and the forthcoming Youth Act;
• the Social Support Act;
• the privacy rules of Psymobil.
Adopts the following Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Reporting Code.
Action plan for responding to signs of domestic violence or child abuse
Reporting code in relation to the duty of confidentiality and the rights to report child abuse and the right to report domestic violence The organisation’s reporting code must clearly describe the relationship between the duty of confidentiality, the statutory rights to report domestic violence and child abuse and the reporting code action plan. Section III of this guide or parts thereof can be used for this purpose. For example: The statutory rights to report domestic violence and child abuse give all professionals with a duty of confidentiality or other duty of non-disclosure the right to report suspected domestic violence or child abuse, even without the client’s consent. For legislation see section 53 (3) of the Youth Care Act and section 21d (3) of the Social Support Act. Both of these statutory rights to report allow for a breach of the duty of confidentiality by, for example, doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, psychologists, educationalists, midwives, youth care workers and probation officers. The action plan describes how professionals with a duty of confidentiality should use these statutory rights to report.
Step 1: Identifying the signs Identify and record the signs that confirm or disprove suspicions of domestic violence or child abuse.
In addition, record all instances of contact with the client concerning these signs plus any steps or decisions taken. When identifying signs of domestic violence or child abuse, use a dedicated instrument for identifying abuse or domestic violence (if your organisation has one). Describe the signs as factually as possible. If you also record hypotheses or assumptions, state explicitly that this is their status. Add a follow-up note if a hypothesis or assumption is later confirmed or disproved. If you record information from third parties, always specify the source. Only record diagnoses if they are given by competent professionals.
Ask your client whether he has minors in his care in all cases in which his medical condition or other circumstances would pose a risk to the safety or development of any such children. If the client has dependent children, record in your file: the number of children and their ages; and whether the client shares care for the children with a partner, ex-partner or another adult.
If you have no contact with the client’s children yourself, record any signs of the parent’s physical or mental condition or other personal circumstances that could threaten their dependent children’s safety or development. The steps set out in the reporting code also apply to these parent-related signs.
Signs of violence by a professional in a healthcare or education relationship
If there are signs that a professional may have committed violence against a client or student, report these to the supervisor or management in accordance with the in-house guidelines. In such cases, the action plan does not apply.
Signs of violence between clients or between students
Suspected acts of violence between clients, such as residents of a care institution, residents of a family-based unit or students at a school, are not covered by the reporting code action plan. You should report the signs to the supervisor or management. There is one exception to this rule: the reporting code does apply if there are signs of violence between partners who are both clients of the institution, such as married couples or partners living together in the same nursing home, family-based unit or other establishment.
Step 2: Peer consultation and, if necessary, consultation with the Advice and Reporting Centre for Child Abuse and Neglect, the Domestic Violence Advice and Support Centre or an injury specialist.
Discuss the signs with an expert colleague. If necessary, also consult the Advice and Reporting Centre for Child Abuse and Neglect or the Domestic Violence Advice and Support Centre. Where more clarity is needed on the nature and cause of an injury, a forensic physician can be called on for advice. In the medical sector in particular it can be important to consult an injury expert. If forensic expertise is needed in other sectors, the Advice and Reporting Centre for Child Abuse and Neglect or the Domestic Violence Advice and Support Centre can be approached.
Advice on the risks of follow-up action for specific forms of violence.
If your organisation has insufficient knowledge on how to deal with certain forms of violence, such as honour-based violence, forced marriage, sexual abuse or female genital mutilation, always consult the Advice and Reporting Centre for Child Abuse and Neglect or the Domestic Violence Advice and Support Centre before taking further action. Their advice will also help you assess the safety risks involved. Record the results of the peer consultation and the advice received in the client’s file.
Step 3: Interview with the client
Discuss the signs with the client.
If you require assistance in preparing for or conducting the interview with the client, consult an expert colleague and/or the Advice and Reporting Centre for Child Abuse and Neglect or the Domestic Violence Advice and Support Centre.
Explain the purpose of the interview to the client.
Describe the facts you have recorded and the observations you have made.
Invite the client to respond.
If necessary, interpret what you have seen and heard and what you have been told in response, but only after the client has responded. In cases of female genital mutilation, you can use the Declaration against Female Genital Mutilation.
You may file a report without discussing the signs with the client only if:
• your own safety, that of your client, or that of a third party is at stake;
• if you have good reason to suppose that an interview would prompt the client to break contact with you and that this would prevent the client from being sufficiently protected from possible further violence.
Recording the case in the Register of At-Risk Juveniles. If the development of a minor or minors is at risk, when carrying out step 3 you should also consider recording the case in the Register of At-Risk Juveniles.
NB: This register aims to bring together professionals dealing with young people who are at risk so that they can coordinate their actions and avoid working at cross purposes. Recording a case of child abuse in the register is not an alternative to reporting it to the Advice and Reporting Centre for Child Abuse and Neglect. So even if you decide to record a case in the register, you should continue with steps 4 and 5 of the action plan if discussions with the parents or minor do not remove your suspicions of child abuse. For more information about the Register of At-Risk Juveniles and the statutory right to report cases to the register see www.verwijsindex.nl.
Step 4: Assess the nature and severity of the domestic violence or child abuse identified. If there is any doubt, consult with the Advice and Reporting Centre for Child Abuse and Neglect or the Domestic Violence Advice and Support Centre again.
Having considered the signs, the advice obtained and the interview with the client, assess the risk of domestic violence or child abuse. In addition, assess the nature and severity of the domestic violence or child abuse identified.
When assessing the risk of domestic violence or child abuse, use a risk assessment instrument (if your organisation has one). If in doubt, always consult with the Advice and Reporting Centre for Child Abuse and Neglect or the Domestic Violence Advice and Support Centre again. They can help you assess the violence and risks and advise on any further action to be taken.
NB: In the KNMG reporting code for doctors, this step is combined with step 5. The KNMG reporting code advises doctors, as an additional step and if necessary, to obtain information from other professionals working with the family. See step 4 and article 9 of the code: www.knmg.nl/publicaties.
Step 5: Reaching a decision: arranging assistance yourself or filing a report
Arranging assistance and tracking its effects
In view of your assessment in step 4, if you think you can sufficiently protect your client and his family against the risk of domestic violence or child abuse:
• arrange the necessary assistance;
• track the effects of that assistance;
• file a report if you identify signs that the domestic violence or child abuse is continuing or has resumed.
Filing a report and discussing it with the client
If you cannot sufficiently protect your client from the risk of domestic violence or child abuse, or if you doubt whether you can do so:
• report your suspicions to the Advice and Reporting Centre for Child Abuse and Neglect or the Domestic Violence Advice and Support Centre;
• include in your report as much factual evidence as possible, and state clearly if the information you are reporting (also) comes from third parties;
• when drawing up your report, consult with the Advice and Reporting Centre for Child Abuse and Neglect or the Domestic Violence Advice and Support Centre about how you yourself can protect your client and his family from the risk of domestic violence or abuse – within the limits of your normal duties – after you have filed your report.
Before you file your report, discuss it with your client (if aged 12 or over) and/or with the parent (if the client is under 16).
• Explain your reasons for filing a report and the purpose of doing so.
• Ask the client explicitly for a response.
• If the client objects to the report, discuss with him how you can meet his objections.
• If you cannot do so, weigh the objections against the need to protect your client or a family member from violence or child abuse. In your assessment, take account of the nature and severity of the violence and the need to protect your client or his family from it.
• File a report if you believe that protecting the client or his family is the decisive factor.
You can dispense with contact with the client about the report:
• if your own safety, that of your client, or that of a third party is at stake;
• if you have good reason to believe that an interview would prompt the client to break contact with you.
Clémence Mondot is named as the person within the organisation who decides whether or not to arrange assistance or file a report.
Specifying who is responsible for carrying out steps and deciding whether to file a report
Responsibility for carrying out the steps listed in the reporting code: Clémence Mondot
The person/persons who can be consulted as a specialist in domestic violence or child abuse: Advice and Reporting Centre for Child Abuse and Neglect or the Domestic Violence Advice and Support Centre.
Responsibility for deciding in step 5 whether or not to file a report: Clémence Mondot.
Responsibilities of Psymobil
Under the Mandatory Reporting Code Act, the competent authority of Psymobil will:
• ensure that the organisation has a reporting code in place that meets the statutory requirements;
• ensure that the purpose and substance of the reporting code are well known within the organisation;
• regularly provide training and other forms of professional development so that
professionals are able to acquire the appropriate skills and knowledge to identify
domestic violence and child abuse, and carry out the steps described in the reporting code;
• include the reporting code in the induction programme for new staff;
• ensure that the right experts are available to assist professionals in identifying violence or abuse and taking the steps described in the reporting code;
• ensure that the reporting code fits in with other procedures within the organisation;
• regularly evaluate the reporting code and take any necessary action to promote awareness and use of the reporting code.
Protocols, reporting codes and other documents used in preparing this model code
• Letter to the House of Representatives from the State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Minister for Youth and Family and the Minister of Justice concerning mandatory reporting codes on domestic violence and child abuse (House of Representatives, 2008-2009 session, 28 345, no. 72, November 2008).
• Summary of reporting codes, Netherlands Youth Institute, Utrecht, 2008.
• Amsterdam Protocol on Child Abuse.
• Youth Health Care Service draft guidelines on secondary prevention of child abuse, 2007.
• Dutch Association of Doctors in Youth Health Care (AJN) interview protocol on female genital mutilation, 2005.
• Pharos action protocol on female genital mutilation, 2007.
• KNMG reporting code and action plan, September 2008.
• KNOV code for reporting child abuse, February 2007.
• NIZW code for reporting child abuse, 2002.
• Haaglanden ambulance services code for reporting child abuse, April 2009.
• SEH Medical Centre Haaglanden protocol for reporting child abuse, March 2009.
• Rotterdam domestic violence and child abuse reporting code.
• Sample protocols for reporting child abuse in primary and secondary schools, developed by the The Hague municipal health department, South Holland West public health department, and the JSO expertise centre.
• Zicht op de Rotterdamse Meldcode (‘The City of Rotterdam Reporting Code’), an evaluation of Rotterdam’s domestic violence and child abuse code, K. Lünnemann, Verwey Jonker Institute, March 2009