Trafficked children are suffering because social workers lack the skills to identify and intervene on their behalf according to the Children’s Society.
The charity has published a report Hidden Children – separated children at risk, with recommendations to social workers on how to improve the lives of children who arrive from overseas in the care of someone who is not their parent or usual carer and then exploited or subjected to ill-treatment.
One gap highlighted in the report is that frontline social workers who do hear from hidden children are unsure what to do next. Previously hidden children interviewed by the society said some frontline workers were unwilling to help them because they did not understand the severity of the situation, while others did not know where to refer the child for help.
The report encourages social workers to intervene where a hidden child situation is suspected. Tell-tale signs include a child’s possession of a mobile phone but no money, exhibitions of maturity or self-assurance uncharacteristic to a child that age and a history of going missing from local authority care.
There are also recommendations for practitioners who come into contact with children who were previously exploited in this way. According to the report, stability is crucial for these individuals. This includes consistency in the social workers they come into contact with, stable placements with experienced foster carers and clear explanations of their choices and options regarding immigration.
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