It is a meeting held when ‘professionals’ (People such as doctors, teachers and social workers) are worried that children may be coming to harm because of they way they are being looked after.
What sort of harm?
Harm can take several forms:
- Physical – when an adult deliberately hurts a child such as hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, drowning or suffocating.
- Neglect – where a child is not being looked after properly, for example, not getting enough to eat or being left in dangerous situations.
- Emotional – This would happen, for instance, when a child is all the time being unfairly blamed for everything, or they are told they are stupid and made to feel unhappy. This can also be when a child sees or hears violent arguing or fighting between adults at home.
- Sexual – examples would be where a child has been forced to take part in sexual activities or look at sexual pictures, by an adult or older young person.
Who will be at the conference?
Your parent(s) will usually be there as well as your social worker, your teacher, your doctor and maybe someone from the Police. Other people who have been involved in your life may also be there. There will be someone in charge called a Chairperson and someone taking notes of what is said.
Can I go to a conference?
Sometimes, yes, but it will depend on a number of things. Your Social Worker will talk to you about this to explain more fully what the conference is about and to answer your questions. If, after that talk, it is agreed that you should be there then we’ll try to help you as much as we can – we know that meetings can be worrying.
You might, for instance, want an advocate to tell the conference what you think or just to be there to support you.
It might be best sometimes, if you only attend part of a conference. Again, that will be discussed with you. In some cases we might have to say that you can’t go along, even if you want to, but that would be unusual.
Can a conference take me away from my parents?
The people present will say what they know and think about you and your family. This will mean talking about anything that worries them but also the good things. After this they have to decide whether you need to have a Child Protection Plan (or, if you already have one, whether you still need it).
What is the Child Protection Plan?
This is a list of things that need to happen to make sure you will be safe and well, for example:
- Seeing your doctor regularly.
- Getting to school ok.
- Someone seeing you and talking to you regularly about how things are going for you.
- How to stop the abuse/harm.
What if I don’t attend?
Your Social Worker or your advocate will talk to you to find out how you are and what you feel so that he or she can tell the meeting on your behalf. Even better, you could write something yourself which could be read out at the Conference. We will always as hard as we can to make sure the Conference knows your views and feelings.
Your Social Worker will try to answer all your questions. If you do come to the Conference you will be able to meet the Chairperson first. They can also answer any questions you have.