Background Child maltreatment is a major global public health and safety issue, with short and long term adverse consequences for individuals, communities and society generally. Children and families affected by migration are more vulnerable to maltreatment due to numerous reasons including reduced resources, increased psychosocial pressures, trauma, displacement and bereavement. Policymakers and practitioners sometimes struggle to find a balance between respect for diverse cultural customs and keeping a child safe. Numerous child homicides occur across the world where cultural sensitivity and fear of repercussion meant that early warnings of maltreatment were missed and opportunities to prevent child maltreatment or deaths were lost. At the same time, blanket policies addressing issues particularly pertinent to some migrant children, for example radicalization, female genital cutting, may provoke further distancing between some ethnic groups and services that might address children’s safety needs.
Methods An integrative review of child maltreatment reports was undertaken from selected available serious case reviews, child death reports and child protection databases. Major literature on diversity, migration and child protection was examined for critical comment and best practice examples. Relevant policy documents were also scrutinised. Five diverse exemplar case studies were interrogated in depth to consider the linkages between diversity, migration and child protection. Inductive thematic analysis organised emergent themes within a human factors and safety framework.
Results Extant literature is myriad, multidisciplinary and diverse. There is a paucity of empirical research addressing the linkages between migration, diversity and child protection. Whilst there is a difference between the needs of refugee and asylum-seeking children and young people and those of settled first or second generations, there are more commonalities than might be thought. Thematic overviews of significant cases illuminate tensions in responding adequately to issues of child maltreatment where cultural difference prevents helpful dialogue in enhancing child safety.
Conclusions Migration is a contemporary global issue that can exacerbate child vulnerability to maltreatment. There is a need to tackle issues of diversity head on in order to protect children adequately. Lessons from recent cases have not been learned and whilst potentially uncomfortable, pragmatic guidance is required.
- Child protection
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