The primary focus for safeguarding children is to prevent FGM taking place. It is acknowledged that some families see FGM as an act of love rather than cruelty; however FGM causes considerable harm both in the short and long term and constitutes physical and emotional abuse to children.
Wherever possible the aim of prevention is to work in partnership with parents, families and communities to protect children through raising awareness of the harmful effects of the practice and the UK legislation (FGM Act 2003).
FGM must always be considered as causing significant harm therefore, if you believe that a girl or her younger siblings may be at risk you must act and contact your local child protection co-ordinator. The document Working Together To Safeguard Children (1999) highlights that a local authority may exercise its powers under s.47 of the Children Act 1989 if it has reason to believe that a girl is likely to be or has been the subject of FGM. Professionals must work together to safeguard children and be vigilant at all times to the potential risk.
Thresholds for Referral/Risk Assessment
Professionals need to be aware of the possibility of FGM. The following are possible indicators that FGM may take place:
● The family comes from a community that is known to practise FGM. E.g. Somalia, Sudan and other African
countries. It may be possible that they will practice FGM if a female family elder is present in the family network.
● Antenatal booking provides an opportunity for recognition of risk and preventative work with parents/carers. Any
female child born to a woman who has been subjected to FGM must be considered to be at risk, as must other
female children in the extended family.
● Parents state that they or a relative will take the child out of the country for a prolonged period.
● A child may talk about a long holiday to her country of origin or another country where the practice is prevalent,
including African countries and the Middle East. Of other European Countries.
● The child may confide to a professional that she is to have a ‘special procedure’ or to attend a special occasion.
● Reference to FGM/Circumcision is heard in conversation, for example a child may request help from a teacher
or another adult.
(Ref: Waltham Forest Local Safeguarding Children Board FGM Protocol for Children and Young People 2006).
Indications that Female Genital Mutilation may have already taken place include:
● A child may spend long periods of time away from the classroom during the day with bladder or
● There may be prolonged absences from school.
● A prolonged absence from school with noticeable behaviour changes on the girl’s return could be an indication
that a girl has recently undergone FGM.
● At antenatal booking the holistic assessment may identify women who have undergone FGM. Midwives and
Obstetricians should then plan appropriate care for pregnancy and delivery.
Professionals also need to be vigilant to the needs of children who may/are suffering the adverse consequence of the practice.
Child who has already undergone FGM
If a child has already undergone FGM and this comes to the attention of any professional, a referral should be made to social services. A strategy meeting must be convened within two days. The strategy meeting will consider how, where and when the procedure was performed and the legal implication of this.
● If the child has already undergone FGM the strategy meeting will need to consider carefully whether to continue
enquiries or whether to assess the need for support services. Particular attention should be given to assessing
the needs of any other girls in the family. If any legal action is being considered, legal advice must be sought.
● A second strategy meeting should take place within ten working days of the referral, with the same chair. This
meeting must evaluate the information collected in the enquiry and recommend whether a child protection
conference is necessary. (LCPC 2003).
● Any girl who has undergone FGM may be offered counselling and medical help as required. Consideration must be
give to any other female siblings at risk.
● A child protection conference should only be considered necessary if there are unresolved child
protection issues once the initial investigation and assessment have been completed.