Community Care
  • Click to see all the latest social work and social care jobs

Tool to help social workers identify harmful sexual behaviour in children

Credit: Rex Features/AIRIO

Credit: Rex Features/AIRIO

Regular readers of Community Care might remember that we featured a traffic light tool last year, developed by Brook to help social workers identify problematic sexual behaviours in children and young people.

But many argue that by the time social workers and youth offending team workers are involved worrying patterns of behaviour are already entrenched or a child has already been abused.

Donald Findlater, director of research and development at the Lucy Faithfull Foundation (LFF), points out that if we are serious about prevention then we need to be giving similar tools to adoptive parents and foster carers.

So, using the Brook tool and the original inspiration, developed by Family Planning Queensland in Australia, the LFF have developed two traffic light guides for parents and foster carers - one looking at behaviours in children under five, the other looking at children aged between 5 and 11.

Although it has not been published yet, Community Care readers get a sneak preview of some of its content.

Identifying behaviour of children under five

Credit: REX/Image Broker

REX/Image Broker

GREEN (natural and expected behaviour that provides an opportunity to talk, teach and explain what is appropriate)

  • Attempting to touch genitals, or expressing curiosity about other children’s genitals
  • Attempting to touch or curiosity about breasts, bottoms or genitals of adults
  • Touches/rubs own genitals when nappy is being changed, when going to sleep, when tense, excited or afraid
  • Interested in watching people doing bathroom functions
REX/Image Broker

REX/Image Broker

AMBER (possibly of concern if they persist)

    • Continues to touch/rub genitals in public after being told many times not to do so
    • Continuous questions about genital differences after all questions have been answered
    • Touches the genitals, breasts of adults not in the family and asks to be touched
    • Rubbing against other children with clothes off or on
    • Pulling children’s pants down/skirts up against their will
REX/Image Broker

REX/Image Broker

RED (can signal a need for immediate protection and support from a professional)

        • Touches/rubs self in public or in private to the exclusion of normal childhood activities
        • Fear and/or disgust of own or opposite gender
        • Sneakily touches adult’s private parts
        • Persists in putting something in own or another child’s genitals or rectum, even if painful
        • Simulated or real sexual intercourse without clothes, or engages in oral sex

For more information or copies of the leaflets contact

Camilla Pemberton, journalist,

About Camilla Pemberton, journalist,

Camilla Pemberton is Community Care's children's editor