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Manage referrals and investigations for Child Protection/Child Exploitation investigations
Child Protection Investigation Hub
What can trigger a child protection investigation?
Child grooming is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses emotional manipulation and deceptive tactics to establish an inappropriate relationship with a child or young person, to gain their trust, and ultimately to exploit them sexually, emotionally, or financially. It usually involves gradual steps over time, such as gaining trust by building relationships, sending gifts or special attention, and offering access to alcohol, drugs, or money. Child grooming can happen both online and in real life.
In many cases, the groomer will be already well-known to the child, such as a family member, teacher, coach, clergy member, or neighbor. This makes it more difficult for the victim to report the abuser because of feelings of loyalty and friendship that have been built up over time. The effects of child grooming can be devastating for victims - leaving them feeling confused about their relationship with the abuser and their own identity. They may feel guilt for not coming forward sooner, fear retribution from the perpetrator or family members if they disclose what happened, experience depression and anxiety symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suffer from self-esteem issues, or turn to substance abuse as a coping mechanism.
Recognizing child grooming
Warning signs of child grooming may include:
Child sexual abuse material or CSAM
CSAM is any kind of content that depicts sexual abuse or exploitation of children. This can include photos, videos, and even cartoons. It is important to note that CSAM is not just limited to images of children being sexually abused—it can also include images of children in sexually suggestive poses or nude images of children where there is no sexual activity taking place. In short, if the image or video is created for sexual gratification, it is CSAM.
There are a few things one can look for when trying to identify CSAM:
Types of child protection investigations
According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, a child protection investigation is conducted when “there are concerns that a child has been, or is being, physically or sexually abused, or neglected.” In other words, an investigation is launched when abuse or neglect is suspected.
There are three types of child protection investigations.
The first type of investigation is called a screening investigation. This type of investigation is launched when there is what is known as a “valid report” – in other words, when there is enough evidence to warrant an investigation. Typically, this initial evidence will come in the form of a report from mandatory reporters such as teachers, doctors, or social workers. Once this report is filed, the state’s child protective services will launch an initial screening investigation. During a screening investigation, caseworkers will work to determine whether or not there is enough evidence to support the claims made in the original report. If there is not enough evidence, the case will be closed. However, if there is enough evidence to warrant further action, the case will be moved on to the next stage: an assessment investigation.
An assessment investigation is launched when there is enough evidence to support the claims made in the original report. During this phase of the investigation, caseworkers will work to gather more information about the family and the situation at hand. This may include interviews with family members, witnesses, and others involved in the child’s life, home visits, and reviews of medical records and other documentation. Based on their findings, caseworkers will make one of three determinations: that the allegations are “substantiated” and that intervention is necessary; that the allegations are “not substantiated” but that there are still concerns about the child’s wellbeing; or that the allegations are “unfounded” and that no further action needs to be taken.
Investigation after an allegation Is substantiated:
If an allegation is substantiated during an assessment investigation – in other words, if it is determined that abuse or neglect has occurred – then caseworkers will launch a full-scale investigation into what happened and who was responsible. This type of investigation can be complex and time-consuming, but it is necessary to ensure that children are safe and protected from harm.
The process of a child protection investigation
When a person receives a report that child sexual abuse material has been found online, they need to take immediate action. The first step is to assess the report to determine whether it meets the criteria for an investigation. If it does, the person will need to notify law enforcement and begin collecting evidence. Once that person has collected enough evidence, they will present their findings to law enforcement, who will decide whether or not to pursue criminal charges.
The possible outcomes of a child protection investigation
Major problems in child protection investigations
There are two main kinds of problems that investigators face with child protection investigations.
Obstacles in identifying victims and perpetrators:
Identifying victims and perpetrators is one of the biggest obstacles in child protection investigations. This is often difficult because there are usually no physical injuries, and victims may be reluctant to come forward due to feelings of shame, guilt, or fear. In addition, perpetrators may use threats or bribes to silence victims. In cases of child sexual abuse material, investigators must also contend with the fact that many images are not tagged with metadata that would identify the victim. Furthermore, even when victims are identified, they may live in different countries, which makes it difficult to gather evidence or interview them.
Another challenge associated with child protection investigations is gathering evidence. This can be difficult because there is often no physical evidence, and what little evidence there is can be hard to obtain. For example, in cases of online grooming, chat logs may be deleted by the perpetrator before they can be discovered.
How can Hubstream help investigators with child protection?
Hubstream offers a powerful Child Protection Investigation Hub template that helps child protection agencies and investigators around the world save children from abuse. It is perfect for teams who are working to protect their customers or citizens from sharing child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and grooming or other text-based activity.