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Professional Boundaries

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:



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  • Wendy Baker

    Thank you Laura Henry for this blog.

  • Maureen

    Thank you Laura, too often we see Safeguarding in terms of responding to suspected abuse, it is about being professionally and personally proactive in ensuring the welfare of every child is at the core of all that we do. How many settings have a PCoC I wonder? and if they do how many are using it proactively in supervision? You have got me thinking!

  • Nia

    Thank you for this. All to often I think people become complacant with the mind set it won’t happen in my setting. There are to many cases where people have thought just that. Putting the safety of those they care and work with at risk.
    It’s never a nice subject to talk about but talking and ensuring that we are all knowledgeable within these areas are how we lower the risk of things like this happen.
    We need to be thinking of worse case scenarios and ensuring we have the appropriate tools, training and information in place to ensure everyone concerned is safeguarded

  • Susan

    Thank you for this . Often I think the wider context of safeguarding

  • Zoe Jackson

    Laura what is your recommendations of staff being friends with parents on social media (i.e. Facebook)?

    • Laura Henry

      Great question, Zoe. This is a no, (in my opinion) and should be in your social media policy. Likewise, socialising with parents.

      If the parent and staff member were friends before and they are friends on and off social media, then it is a reminder of confidentiality and professional behaviour.

      Similarly, if a staff member’s child attends the setting: for example, birthday parties, etc. Then yes, again, note confidentiality and professional behaviour.
      Organisational behaviours should be a key discussion within your setting.

  • Tracy Seed

    Reading your blog today, I’m always impressed that you raise the most important topics and agree that a professional code of conduct that says no to relationships with parents is probably the easiest, most efficient way to deal with such matters. I think it’s important to flag-up romantic relationships between staff too. Sexuality, romance, intimacy and love are all important subjects for us to discuss professionally.

    In the centres I led we once had a female couple (both staff) who connected with each other romantically, their behaviour was something we needed to address.

    We also adopted a no baby sitting policy for our families too, because staff sometimes found it difficult to manage their professional relationships when personal relating became so familiar.

    Your blog took me to Dr Jools work on professional love and intimacy and so my morning was spent reading and contemplating and also wanting to make a contribution in this critical body of work.

    Self awareness, emotional maturity and literacy for an early years professional is essential – awareness of their instincts, desires and professional boundaries is all SO important and so is being comfortable with intimacy in professional relationships, because we know this is essential it makes all the difference. How people are raised and educated impacts the way they show up in these aspects of their practice which is why Dr Jools work is so important and the work I offer on authentic communication, empathy and biocentric movement. Teams thrive in environments where care, respect, cooperation and joy is present and so do children.

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