Students examine in detail protocols for child abuse
Students on the Youth Services minor commissioned by Haaglanden Municipal Health Service to research whether voluntary organisations are aware of child abuse. Do they recognise child abuse and do they know what they should do? Sherelyn Suares and Romy van Buuren talked about their research at Don Bosco summer camps.
“It’s difficult to let them go home,” said Romy. “At the end of the camp week, the children, and even the moody adolescents who were not so keen on us at first, had tears in their eyes as we said goodbye.” Romy and Sherelyn are volunteers at the Don Bosco Experience summer camp in Lelystad, where they have also done research into identifying child abuse.
The Don Bosco camp mainly caters for children who have difficulties going on holiday due to financial reasons. Sherelyn and Romy became involved with the summer camp because the university of applied sciences expects Social Educational Care students to undertake at least 80 hours of profiling activities. Voluntary work is perfectly suited to this.
The camp was also suitable for research. The risk of abuse is greater among the children who attend the camp. “The camp receives quite a few children from youth care institutions and foster homes,” said Romy. “These are often special needs children.” Sherelyn: “This was an extremely interesting piece of research for us to do because we are personally involved with this organisation. We will be able to do something with the results when we return there next summer.”
Sherelyn, Romy and four fellow students interviewed managers and staff. Sherelyn: “It emerged that they don’t have a protocol in place for child abuse and that they don’t know exactly what is considered as child abuse. It’s not just about bruises, it also involves mental or physical neglect. For instance, the children at the camp who do not bring clothing for sleeping. Don Bosco is happy with our recommendations, as they can really do something with these. For instance, each volunteer should be trained in recognising child abuse.”
It was an educational project for the students. Romy: “We will soon be visiting another camp with the knowledge we now have about child abuse. Looking back, there was one situation in which we should have intervened. There was one child on the camp from a foster home and we were told by the foster parents that he had to walk home. That was 20 kilometres away! I called the foster parents. They said he should have had his bike repaired before he went to the camp. They did come to collect the other children from the home, but he had to walk home as a matter of principle. And he told us other worrying things. Now, I would call an organisation such as Veilig Thuis to ask their advice about a situation like this one.”