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Considerations when planning interventions

The impacts of abuse and trauma and the need for intervention and support is unique for each child, family and community. When considering whether intervention strategies are suitable for a particular family, be mindful of the impact that domestic and family violence, mental health, alcohol and other drug use, and intergenerational trauma can have on a family’s ability and willingness to work with people and services.

In order to further understand what interventions for a child or family may be appropriate to create safety, review previous investigations and assessments, safety assessments, family risk evaluations and revaluations, and child and parental strengths and needs assessments. These tools and pieces of information provide direction as to areas of vulnerability for the child and family, where interventions should be targeted, and what strengths to build upon.

For example, information identifies a father has a longstanding problem with alcohol and previous incidences of him sexually abusing his child have always occurred when he is under the influence of alcohol. Interventions that only address his abusive behaviour in isolation without considering or addressing his alcohol use are unlikely to be successful or result in longer term positive changes. A successful intervention, in addition to addressing his abusive behaviour, would also target addressing his alcohol use and the underlying factors as to why and how he developed a problem with alcohol.

Tip

Refer to the practice guide Assessing harm and risk of harm to further support your risk assessment skills in assessing harm and risk of harm.

Some children and families may also have specific characteristics or experiences that need to be considered when planning appropriate interventions including disability and culture.

Disability

There is clear and reliable evidence that children with disability (both physical and intellectual) are at greater risk of all types of abuse and are more likely to have been sexual abused than other children. Researchers believe that children with disabilities are less likely to report or disclose sexual abuse because they may have:

  • fewer supports to help them to speak out about their abuse
  • fear they will not be believed
  • a lack of words or language to understand or name the abuse
  • a dependency on the abuser to meet their daily needs
  • limited information about their safety
  • limited knowledge and skills to escape unsafe situations.

Tip

Refer to Risk assessment in the practice kit Disability for further information on the risk factors that make children with disability more vulnerable to abuse.

People with disabilities may face discrimination and misunderstanding through the interventions offered to them. For example, a person with an intellectual impairment may not be offered traditional ‘talking therapy’ interventions because of real or perceived ideas about who is ‘suitable’ for such treatment (Sinason, 2002).  For children and adults who demonstrate sexually abusive behaviours and who also have disability, their ability to understand the concerns and enact safety plans may also be impacted. Specialist support should be sought to understand a person’s needs and the impact the disability has on their capacity to understand the concerns and address the risk they may pose to themselves or others.

Attention

Because child sexual abuse is often silenced and minimised, the impacts can be wide reaching and pervasive. Consider a child and family’s needs holistically and aim to address not only the harm caused by the individual abuse of a child but the damage that is done to the family system, relationships and family identity.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families

To understand the needs of families who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, consider that each family has a unique connection to their culture and community and that an understanding of what this means for the family needs to form part of the assessment and intervention.

Note

Refer to the practice kit Safe care and connection to further understand cultural protocols when discussing matters of a sexual nature with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. Use the information in this kit when considering interventions for children. Listen to the child as to who the feel safe with and who is best to support them.

Safe cultural connections and relationships with safe family members are protective and healing for children and young people who have experienced sexual abuse. Consult with culturally appropriate services and people when considering interventions for children and families who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. Support the family to understand the options available to them for support regarding child sexual abuse, and listen to the family’s views and wishes.

Culturally and linguistically diverse children and their families

Children and families from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds can have different perspectives of what constitutes child sexual abuse, and what may be required for a child to assist in their recovery. Take the time to understand a child and family’s cultural heritage and how their culture can support ongoing safety planning and healing for a child who has experienced abuse. There may be sensitivities practitioners need to be aware of when responding to the sexual abuse of a child from a particular culture.  To be culturally responsive and to understand the family’s culture, ask the family, and seek appropriate support and advice from cultural elders, government and community organisations. 

Refer to Understanding indicators of child sexual abuse and barriers to disclosure to further understand the barriers CALD children and families face when it comes to child sexual abuse.

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