An interesting Social Media post came up on my timeline:
“Question from a member: I would like to know what people would do if a member of staff began a romantic relationship with a parent of a child who is one of their key children; parents only separated very recently (within the last 4 weeks) and mom is totally unaware of the situation. Thank you.”
I was intrigued and concerned that a few commented that they felt it was fine for a member of staff to enter into a sexual relationship with a parent from the setting. I have had over 30 years’ experience working within Early Years, in a variety of roles, and I also work as an expert witness. I have seen where negative organisational behaviour of a setting can have a lasting damaging impact, and, more importantly, can fail to keep children and their families safe and protect them from harm.
Safeguarding and protecting children is not only about identifying the signs and symptoms of abuse, it also concerns organisational behaviours and other aspects that may lead to abuse, trauma and other negative, detrimental effects on children and their families.
Here are my thoughts on why this is a big, massive NO:
- All settings should have in place a Professional Code of Conduct (PCoC), every member of staff should read and understand. Crucially, the senior management team should make sure that staff understand the contents of the PCoC and what it means in practice.
- Good practice around recruitment, induction and supervision are important for setting the scene for a setting’s expectations on professional conduct.
- The PCoC should clearly state, in relation to the above: “Staff should not enter into romantic and sexual relationships with parents under any circumstances.” If they do then disciplinary action will be taken.
- If staff do enter into a relationship with a parent it compromises the integrity of the setting.
- Staff should maintain a professional stance at all times and emotional maturity and emotional intelligence should be a key personal value for all educators.
- On the subject of grooming, abusers often gain the trust of a parent to have access to their child. Therefore, we are not to know if staff ‘may’ have grooming tendencies. Note the EYFS 2017 and what it states about concerning behaviour: “Inappropriate behaviour displayed by other members of staff, or any other person working with the children, for example: inappropriate sexual comments; excessive one-to-one attention beyond the requirements of their usual role and responsibilities; or inappropriate sharing of images.” I know this is a worst-case scenario, however we should always have ‘worse-case scenarios’ in mind when working with children and their families. Note: this is not to be confused with strong, professional, loving attachments between an educator and their key children. Reference, Dr. Jools Page research for more on Professional Love.
- If there was an allegation of abuse within the said family, this puts the member of staff and the setting in an extremely difficult position.
- If you are concerned about a member of staff they should never be ‘let go’.
- Be sure to follow local and national guidance.
- The post and comments also highlighted the need for more professional development on the wider issues on safeguarding and child protection.
- Note that supervision is a requirement of registration, please see this course, via this link.
- If you are concerned about a child, their family and/or a member of staff, please follow your Local Safeguarding Children Board’s procedures and refer to the statutory requirements of the EYFS.
We will be exploring these issues and more at the only conference in the world that focuses on Early Years Safeguarding and Child Protection. Please click on the link for more information.
Early Years Safeguarding and Child Protection Conference: Please click on this link.
Useful Guidance and legislation:
Early Years safeguarding and child protection Facebook page:
- Keeping Children Safe in Education 2016
- Local Safeguarding Children Boards Procedures
- The Children’s Act 1989
- The Children’s Act 2004
- The Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (this includes the Prevent Duty)
- The EYFS 2017
- Serious Crime Act 2015 (reference female genital mutilation and domestic violence)
- What to do if you are worried a child is being abused 2015
- Working together to safeguard children 2015
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