New protocol will help uncover hidden domestic violence in infants

Uncovering hidden domestic violence in under-threes will be made easier for nursery and children’s centre workers and other professionals now a new protocol has been launched by a Roehampton professor.

Posted: 20 July 2015

image for news story New protocol will help uncover hidden domestic violence in infants
Professor Cecilia Essau, whose research is set to help children who might be at risk of violence at home.

The INTOVIAN Protocol is a series of carefully designed questions which professionals who see children every day can use to assess whether a child is suffering at home, if they have initial concerns. The questions are phrased to encourage nursery leaders and their teams to consider behaviour as well as the answers given when children and carers are observed or talked to. This is so a child’s emotional and physical state can be assessed through its actions and expressions during face to face meetings. Almost 60 pages of guidance written by experts is also included to help interpret results.

The protocol has been designed by a Europe-wide team of child care and psychology experts and was launched in the UK by its national co-ordinator, child-psychopathologist Professor Cecilia Essau from the Department of Psychology at the University of Roehampton.

How the protocol works
The protocol can be used by professionals as part of routine infant and toddler observations in children’s centres and nurseries, or by medical staff. As well as using information provided by families, professionals can use the protocol to assess:

  • The quality of the care-giver and child interaction,
  • Levels of affection shown, 
  • Psychological involvement of both care-giver and the child.

Professionals can use the questions and subsequent answers together with extensive supporting guidance and their own judgement about the relationship between the parent and child to uncover any potential issues. These could be whether a parent might have or have not been responsible for a child’s injury which could be likely if the parent’s explanation is inconsistent, for instance.

The protocol includes details on when professionals should consider taking further action to protect a child from potential harm and a database setting out the appropriate agencies.

The INTOVIAN Protocol was developed as part of the EU-funded INTOVIAN project, which six EU countries have participated in - Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the UK. The checklist and its extensive supporting guidance have been constructed so it is applicable to any EU country.

Global estimates of child homicide suggest children aged 0-4 are most at risk with rates more than double compared to 5-14 year olds. These children are the most vulnerable for many reasons, including their dependency, small size, and inability to defend themselves (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2014).

More details about how to access the INTOVIAN protocol and advice on its use are available from Professor Essau.

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