Safeguarding Children as an Art Therapist...

...Is the same as anyone else safeguarding children! Sometimes we can get so caught up in the idealised preservation of confidentiality and therapeutic relationship in our work with a child or young person, we get muddled about this.  Thank goodness for great clinical supervision and other colleagues we talk to.  And good training.  All remind us of our legal and ethical requirements, just as the training I attended did for me today.  I enjoyed it more as It was offered by BAAT, my professional body for Art Therapists and I relished the opportunity to liaise with colleagues, explore case material and update on policy, procedures and resources.  

Safeguarding trumps everything.  All the nuances, meanderings, discussion, negotiations, wondering and wait ‘n’ watching that can tie us in knots as we explore if/when/why we should escalate this concern, pale into insignificance if we simply remember this.  Is the child at risk of persistent and/or significant harm to health or development?  Then report it.  

This drawing which I made in 15 minutes of reflection time on today’s course, was spontaneous and drawn with three pens together.  It speaks to me of all the multiple strands and rivulets, paths and dead ends involved and how Collaborative working is central to both safeguarding and maintaining our own resilience too.  The drawing may say something different to you, which is the beauty of art.  It’s why we must be ever careful too of making ‘pop psychology’ interpretations of children’s art or think we can translate it literally, like a letter.  Art speaks differently, and is changeable in meaning, intent, intensity and audience from moment to moment.  It resides in its process as much, if not more than its product and the context of its creation (including the relationship with the therapist and how it makes us feel) .  It oozes respect for the maker and their voice, irrespective of whether it comes from their mouth or we can fully understand it.  

The child is paramount.  How wonderful.  Because I remember a childhood not THAT long ago where the child had no voice, in a world of adults.  Hopefully those adults were kind and wise toward the vulnerable and powerless, but if not, (like my own primary school Headteacher who was a persistent bully) there was little to be done.  Times have changed, and we have so many agencies looking out for, speaking up for, working with and striving for still better change to enable children to have their childhoods.  

Concerned about a child?  Look up your local social care department at your county council, or call NSPCC of Childline and there will always be someone to listen and advice you.  We all have a responsibility to the wellbeing of the young and vulnerable people of our society.  (Yes there’s adult safeguarding too - same route).