Child to Parent/Carer Harm Policy

This chapter was added in September 2022. This chapter is to help children social care staff recognise and respond to Child to Parent/Carer Harm.

1. Nationally and Locally

There is currently no legal definition of child to parent/carer harm. However, it may be referred to in many other ways that indicate that violence or abuse in different forms are occurring.

Child to Parent/Carer Harm (CPCH) is a complex problem and the boundaries between 'victim' and 'perpetrator' can be unclear. In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, the preferred term is 'child causing harm' as opposed to 'perpetrator'. This is because the harm can often (although not always) be contextualised within existing family problems. In such situations, children causing harm towards a parent/carer are or have been victims or secondary victims of domestic abuse, child abuse, exploitation, or other forms of adversity.

2. Context

It is important to recognise that CPCH is likely to involve a pattern of behaviour. This can include physical abuse from a child towards a parent/carer and different types of other abusive behaviours, including damage to property, emotional abuse, and economic/financial abuse.

Siblings will be affected. There may also be a history of domestic abuse, or current domestic abuse occurring between the parents/carers of the child. It is important to remember that this form of abuse, can also include abuse of a grandparent/carer or sibling and anyone with a parent/carer role.

Professionals working with children and parents/carers should seek to identify risk factors early, implement safety plans, and work together with the child and family to provide early support to avoid crises and criminalising the child. There is a wealth of evidence that shows each contact with the criminal justice system is further damaging to a child and it also has a negative impact on their future life chances

Stigma plays a key role in stopping families from looking for help and must be recognised by frontline professionals. Professionals who visit the family home, such as social workers, midwives, health visitors, school nurses etc. should be alert to the signs of CPCH and know how to respond. CPCH may be picked up at other community settings such as Child and Family Centres.

Identified cases of CPCH should always be treated as a safeguarding issue.

This policy is not intended for use when working with children with disabilities. A separate policy Child to Parent/Carer Harm for children with disabilities is being developed.

3. Working with Children who Harm

There are specific factors to consider when working with children who are involved in child to parent/carer harm:

Environmental factors:

  • Is there a history of domestic abuse within the family unit?
  • Is the child in an abusive intimate relationship?
  • Are adult services involved with the family?
  • Is the child being coerced or exploited into abusive behaviours?
  • Is the child displaying heightened sexualised behaviours?
  • Is the child associating with peer groups who are involved in offending or older peers?
  • Are Children's Services currently involved with the family?
  • Should a risk assessment be conducted on the siblings to see if they are at risk harm and/or contributing?
  • Is the child isolated from people and services that could support them?
  • Is there a risk that the child is being bullied?
  • Are there any intersectional issues (e.g., linked to disability, ethnicity, sexuality, race etc.) that need to be considered or that may affect a victim's disclosure?
  • Are there any contextual safeguarding concerns – what is happening to the child out-side of the family home?

Emotional self-regulation:

  • Does the child have difficulties in forming relationships or have relationships that there are concerning?
  • Does the child have mental health issues, self-harm, or suicidal tendencies?
  • Is the child disengaged from education?
  • Is the child misusing substances?
  • Does the child display an obsessive use of violent games or pornography?
  • Does the child have poor coping skills or engage in risk-taking behaviours?
  • Does the child identify their behaviour as abuse?
  • Has the child experienced any other childhood adversity?
  • Does the child have missing from home episodes?

4. Response to the Child

A child displaying harmful behaviours should receive a safeguarding response as well as the parent/carer.

A Child and Family Assessment (C&F) must be instigated to understand the background and current concerns. As CPCH is a complex area of work, a Risk Assessment Screening Tool has been developed and this should be conducted alongside the C&F for a new case, or at any time on an open case where CPCH becomes a concern. Consideration must always be given to the risks posed to the parent/carer and their support needs, as part of a whole family approach.

Click here to view Child to Parent/Carer Harm Risk Assessment.

5. Response to the Parent/Carer

The adult safeguarding duties under the Care Act 2014 apply to an adult, aged 18 or over, who:

  • Has needs for care and support (whether the local authority is meeting any of those needs); and
  • Is experiencing, or at risk of, abuse or neglect; and
  • Because of those care and support needs is unable to protect themselves from either the risk of or the experience of abuse or neglect.

Adult Safeguarding procedures should be followed. This will allow multi-agency information to be gathered, a shared risk assessment to be collated and a safety plan agreed upon for the family.

However, not all parent/carers will meet this threshold, so there should always be a process of safety planning for the parent/carer – see Section 7 Assessment and Planning and Section 8 Safety Planning.

The parent/carer's physical and mental health and well-being can be significantly impacted. It may result in parent/carers self-medicating with drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Those who experience CPCH often suffer a great deal before seeking support. This is often linked to feelings of failure in the parent/carer role, and the shame and stigma of having a child who is harming them.

Most families seek a long-term solution where they can remain safely together, even if the initial request for help is for the removal of the child to ensure safety and provide respite. The restoration of healthy, respectful family relationships should be the goal.

Referrals to domestic abuse services should always be considered. See Section9 Checklist and Help and Support Agencies for a list of the local authority commissioned domestic abuse services that support parent/carers who are being harmed by their children.

If the parent/carer is high risk (assessed via the CPCH Risk Assessment Tool) and the child is aged 16+, a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) referral should be made where a Domestic Abuse Stalking and Harassment (DASH) Risk Assessment will be undertaken. If the child causing harm is aged under 16 the MARAC may consider the referral on a case-by-case basis.

6. Strategy Meeting/Safeguarding Enquiries

As part of the adult safeguarding procedures, a safeguarding enquiry will commence establishing any further action to be taken and by whom. Children's services will be integral to the enquiry. If the child already has an allocated social worker, they will attend any meeting in person or virtually.

Where the child does not have a social worker, a referral will be made to the Integrated Front Door (IFD). Under S.42 of the Care Act 2004, a Strategy Meeting/discussion will be held, in which CSC should be involved.

The principles of 'Making Safeguarding Personal' are central to Safeguarding Adult's enquiries and decisions, which should be person led and outcome focused. This means to consent to the safeguarding process must be sought from individuals, unless there are concerns about their mental capacity to make this decision, or if others may be at risk. Individuals should be given opportunities at all stages of the safeguarding process to express their views and wishes.

Consideration must be given to the mental capacity of vulnerable child if they are aged 16 years and over. If there is concern regarding a child's capacity to consent, an assessment under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA'05) must be considered for each specific decision. It should be recognised that mental capacity can be affected by several factors, including the abusive situation the person is in and any threats or coercion.

See also: Mental Capacity Procedure.

Where a referral regarding CPCH is received, a strategy meeting/discussion must be convened within 2 working days and include adult care representation.

The strategy discussion/meeting should decide whether the threshold is met to initiate a Section 47 child protection enquiry and a Child and Family assessment.

7. Assessment and Planning

As a minimum, a C&F Assessment should be considered for all cases where there is CPCH and must include the multi-agency contribution of all relevant professionals known to the family.

Any resulting Plan i.e., Early Help CIN or Child Protection Plan) must set out the immediate and longer-term actions and safety plan required to safeguard and support the family, the visiting frequency including the detail of any direct work to be undertaken with the child.

The Plan must be formally reviewed 4-to-6 weekly, or a minimum for every 3 months for Early Help, by the multi-agency Care Team/Core Group with monthly formal supervision from the Senior Practitioner/Team Manager. Where plans are not progressing or the risks are increasing, the Team Manager must share and discuss this with the Senior Manager/Service Manager.

8. Safety Planning

Safety planning is a practical process that can be used with anyone affected by domestic abuse including those affected by CPCH. Safety planning must be done with the parent/carer (the adult victim) and any other family members at risk of harm. It should be a core element of working in partnership with victims and other agencies, considering the outcomes of risk assessment and risk management. Safety planning involves more than assessing potential future risks; it can help create psychological safety, space to recover and freedom from fear. Other members of the household's responses to questions about what they do when there is violence or abuse should be considered in safety planning. Risk assessments can assist safety planning and should aim to:

  • Help to understand the parent/carer's fear and experiences as well as the fears of the child;
  • Use and build on existing positive coping strategies;
  • Provide a safe physical space to recover;
  • Link to the relevant assessment framework being used by the agency and provide a holistic approach to safety and well-being;
  • Be part of a continuous process and ensure that safety planning links into the overall plan for the parent/carer and is not completed as an isolated process;
  • Ensure safety plans are tailored to the individual. A 'one size fits all approach is ineffective and potentially dangerous.

The safety Plan sits alongside the overarching plan (CIN/CP) for the child or child and must be reviewed every 6 weeks.

Click here to view Home Safety Plan - Guidance Notes

Click here to view Home Safety Plan

9. Help and Support Agencies and National and Local Guidance

Home Office Information Guide: Information guide: adolescent to parent/carer violence (

Parent/carer Educational Growth Support (PEGS) for support available for both parent/carers experiencing Child to Parent/carer Abuse, and professionals who are working with families where CPA has been identified or is suspected. CPAC (

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Partnership

Support for adoptive Parent/carers

Holes in The Wall, adoption

All the below accept self-referrals:

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Partnership

Cambridge Women's Aid (City/South/East)
01223 361214

Refuge (Fenland/Hunts/Peterborough)
07787 255821

Peterborough Women's Aid
01733 894964

Cambridge Rape Crisis
01223 245888

Peterborough Rape Crisis
01733 852578

The Elms Sexual Assault Referral Centre
0800 193 5434

Victim & Witness Hub
0800 781 6818