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Social Workers

If you are a social worker working for child protection, there may be a time when you are called in to investigate a case about possible FGM.
This may be because an intention was made known to the notifier.
THIS IS ENOUGH TO WARRANT AN INVESTIGATION
Be aware that the parents WILL deny their intention

Social workers need to arm themselves with knowledge and support about FGM in order to handle what may appear to be very complex problem, but when it comes down to it, is very simple. This is about child protection.

FGM is happening BOTH in Australia as well as out of Australia.
Parents are now able to get FGM done on their girls in Australia

Indicators of intention: an air ticket is an indicator of intention, but the absence of a ticket doesn’t mean there is no intention.

Key indicators will be if someone has asked about where to get someone who will perform FGM or another otherwise stated verbally they wish their daughter to have FGM.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS WILL BE ONE PERSON’S WORD (THE NOTIFER) AGAINST ANOTHER (THE PARENT/GRANDPARENT), AND THEREFORE CHILD PROTECTION MUST ERR ON THE SIDE OF PROTECTING THE GIRL.

A child is in the highest risk category for FGM if:

  • her mother has FGM
  • her sibling has FGM or
  • if her father comes from an FGM affected community
  • if there is an elder relative visiting from an FGM affected community

The protection of the child should ALWAYS be the focus not community consideration or offending the parents.

You need to ask tough questions

Does the mother have FGM?
Does the older sister, any cousins have FGM?
Where and when did the other siblings have FGM?

We just can’t assume they had their FGM back home, they could have had their FGM done after they arrived in Australia.

If the mother is from an FGM affected community, even if she does not support FGM she may not be able to protect the daughter if other relatives still support the practice.
An elder doesn’t need to visit to pressure parents to have FGM done to their daughters. They can be back home and still exercise their power and influence.  Social pressure from the community here in Australia as well can also make parents want to have FGM done their daughters.

It must be clear that a strong denial from the family is not an indication of innocence but more of a need to protect their families. In fact there will never be a family who will actually admit to an intention to perform FGM.

Social workers need to ensure that before meeting with parents that they arm themselves
with as much knowledge about FGM as possible.

No FGM Australia will be happy to help provide resources and information. Contact Us

Following a report of a child in danger of FGM:

1. Meet the family and discuss the legal status of FGM, that the child is considered in danger. Explain this does not mean the child is going to be removed, but that FGM is considered a serious crime and investigation is necessary to keep the child safe.
2. Arrange for a child protection order which includes ongoing medical checks to ensure that the child remains safe. There may also be requirement for travel restrictions in some cases.
3. there is usually no need to have the child removed unless the family is expressing strongly their intention to have the daughter undergo FGM which would be unlikely.

Be aware of the possible prejudice cultural liaison officers in their departments may have with regards to FGM. Some may not consider it as child abuse which will impact the advice they will provide as well as possible coaching of the family with regards to what to say to stop investigation. 

social-workers

Very useful resource from the WA government on how to approach a female genital mutilation notification. Click Here

FGM Laws in Australia vary from state to state.
For more information on the laws in each state click here

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