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1.4.8 Fabricated or Induced Illness

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SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This policy applies to all staff working in Milton Keynes agencies whose work brings them into contact with children and families, and should be used as a means of bringing about better outcomes for children and young people. It outlines the procedures to follow when professionals are concerned that the health or development of a child is likely to be significantly impaired by the actions of a parent/ carer having fabricated or induced illness in the child.

Contents

1. Introduction

This document is based on 'Safeguarding Children in Whom Illness is Fabricated or Induced' DoH 2008.

Objectives

The objective of this document is to provide clarity to professionals on how to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people in who fabricated or induced illness (FII) is suspected.

Scope

What is FII

Fabricated and Induced Illness (FII) was first described as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSbP) in 1977. The term FII was introduced in the UK by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in 2001 and subsequently adopted by the Department of Health.

FII involves a well child being presented by a carer as ill or disabled, or an ill or disabled child being presented with a more significant problem than he or she has in reality, and suffering harm as a consequence. The carer actively promotes the sick role by exaggeration, fabrication (lying) or falsification of signs and in severe cases inducing illness.

There is no universal agreement on the definition of FII.

The defining characteristics of FII are:

  • Illness in a child which is fabricated or induced by a parent or someone who is in the position of a parent;
  • The child is presented for medical assessment and care, usually persistently, often resulting in multiple medical procedures;
  • The perpetrator often denies the aetiology (explanation of the causes) of the child’s illness.

Acute symptoms and signs cease when the child is separated from the perpetrator.

A Shared Responsibility

Promoting children's well being and safeguarding them from significant harm depends crucially upon effective information sharing, collaboration and understanding between agencies and professionals. Joint working is essential and all agencies and professionals should:

  • Be alert to potential indicators of illness being fabricated or induced in a child;
  • Be alert to the risks which individual abusers, or potential abusers, may pose to children in whom illness is being fabricated or induced;
  • Share and help to analyse information so that informed assessment can be made as to the child's needs and circumstances;
  • Contribute to whatever actions and services are required to safeguard and promote the child's welfare.

See Section 14, Roles and Responsibilities.

2. Recognition of FII

Cases of FII may present in an acute situation in hospital or more commonly there may be a chronic evolution with frequent presentations of exaggeration or fabrication in a range of settings.

Health professionals such as doctors (particularly General Practitioners or Paediatricians), health visitors, nursing staff during an acute admission, dieticians and allied health professionals  working with the child, may observe discrepancies between reported and observed symptoms and signs.

FII does not only present with physical problems. Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services professionals may identify that a fabricated or induced illness is being presented to them in the form of fabricated or induced emotional or behavioural symptoms. 

Frequent or unexplained school absence to keep a doctor’s or hospital appointment or repeated claims by the carer that a child is unwell though appears otherwise to the teacher, may cause concern in the school setting.

Social workers may note excessive demands for support which raises their concern.

Mental health professionals working with the child or child’s parent/ carer may identify a child being drawn into the parent’s illness.

3. Indicators Which Should Alert Professionals to Possible FII

  • A carer reporting symptoms and observed signs that are not explained by any known medical condition;
  • Physical examination and results of medical investigations that do not explain symptoms or signs reported by the carer;
  • There is an inexplicably poor response to prescribed medication or other treatment, or intolerance of treatment;
  • Acute symptoms that are exclusively observed by/in the presence of the carer;
  • New symptoms are reported by the carer on resolution of previous ones or carer reporting symptoms in different children in sequence;
  • Over time the child is repeatedly presented with a range of signs and symptoms;
  • The child's normal daily life activities are being curtailed, for example, school attendance, beyond that which might be expected for any medical disorder from which the child is known to suffer or the use of seemingly unnecessary special aids;
  • Objective evidence of fabrication, for example, test results such as toxicology studies or blood typing;
  • The carer expressing concern that they are under suspicion of FII, or relatives raising concerns about FII;
  • The carer seeking multiple opinions inappropriately.

4. How is the Child Harmed?

In fabricated illness the perpetrator does not directly harm the child. The carer actively promotes the sick role by exaggeration or fabrication (lying) of symptoms. The harm caused to the child can be significant and may include:

  • Frequent and invasive medical investigations;
  • Unnecessary treatments;
  • Missed education and social isolation;
  • Limitation in daily life and the adoption of a sick role or lifestyle as a disabled person;
  • Characterisation as being disabled, through the receipt of disability benefits or special educational provisions;
  • The child becoming anxious or confused about their state of health and abilities.

In fabricated illness falsified specimens may support the clinical story. For example substances containing glucose added to urine to mimic diabetes. The specimens are obtained not by injuring the child but by other means.

In induced illness, the perpetrator inflicts direct harm to the child. This can range from trivial injuries or pricking the child to obtain blood to add to urine, poisoning with a range of prescribed and non prescribed medication through to suffocation to induce apnoea (child stops breathing as a result of suffocation and goes blue).

5. Perpetrator

There is no such thing as a typical perpetrator. Various studies have highlighted the following characteristics:

  • Is often the mother;
  • Often has a current/ previous psychiatric history of anxiety, depression, self harm, eating disorder or past history of FII;
  • May alternate between presenting her/himself as ill and the child as ill;
  • They appear to be highly devoted but paradoxically appear unconcerned about the child’s illness. They appear disappointed at negative test results;
  • Extravagant claims made to the GP, health visitor, school regarding diagnosis and treatment;
  • May have contacted self-help groups and organisations at a premature stage in the course of the disease, may have engaged with the media;
  • Typically knowledgeable about child’s illness and treatment and form close and controlling relationships with healthcare staff;
  • Persistent refusal of in home services such as home nursing or family support;
  • An avoidance of professionals who challenge presentation;
  • “Shopping around” and multiple specialist opinions;
  • Perpetrators had frequently been abused themselves;
  • Family relationships report a distant, passive or absent father;
  • Less than 20% had medical training;
  • Often no previous child protection involvement;
  • There could be a history of unusual or unexplained death in previous children.

6. Barriers to the Identification of FII

The following approaches and attitudes can be a barrier to the identification of FII:

  • Failure to recognise the spectrum of cases that fall within the remit of FII;
  • Always thinking the best of parents;
  • Failure to corroborate the history offered by the parent/ carer;
  • Claiming inappropriately that information is confidential and hence failing to share crucial information;
  • Pretending the problem does not exist;
  • Fear of litigation and complaints;
  • Development of polarised views;
  • Failure to recognise that FII can coexist with genuine illness and tendency to consider FII as a diagnosis of exclusion.

7. Managing an Individual Case

Acting on emerging concerns

Concerns could arise as a result from your own professional judgement, talking to colleagues or professionals from other agencies. As soon as concerns about FII arise, concerns should be documented in an accurate and factual manner differentiating between opinion, judgement and hypothesis to build a bigger picture and gather evidence. Documentation must include the name and agency of the person who provided or reported the information. Record all telephone conversations fully. Any professional who suspects FII should compile a chronology (Appendix 1: Preparing a FII Chronology and Appendix 2: FII Chronology Template).

MKSCB has adopted and modified the Cumbria Safeguarding Children Board chronology template (Appendix 3: The FII Template Explained) for use in cases of FII. The template lists fifteen categories of warning signs that may indicate the presence of FII and is used in conjunction with the chronology.

Evidence collated must be discussed with the named person for child protection within their own organisation to help decide whether to arrange an ‘emerging concerns professionals meeting’ or to conclude that FII is unlikely.

Emerging concerns professionals meeting

The purpose of this meeting is to:

  • Share information which should have been collated in the form of a chronology by each agency involved;
  • Analyse information using the FII template;
  • Formulate an action plan;
  • Decide if further meetings are required.

The meeting is usually convened by a health professional but can be called by any professional involved with the child. When the meeting is convened by Health, the Named Nurse for Child Protection must be informed. Parents/ carer should not be informed of the meeting or concerns at this stage in order to ensure the child’s safety. Although in general it is good practice to share information with parents/ carers in cases of FII it could place the child at further risk and hamper subsequent criminal investigations.

At this multi agency meeting all staff that has had significant contact or involvement with the family should be invited to ensure that all views can be expressed and shared.

The staff who usually attend are:

  • Named Nurse Child Protection (who will consider other relevant staff to be invited);
  • Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) Social Worker or involved Social Worker if the child is open to them;
  • GP - who should bring all relevant information about the family, past and present;
  • Consultant Paediatrician;
  • Education/Early Years;
  • Health Visitor/School Nurse;
  • Involved Allied Health Professionals;
  • Police could be contacted at this early stage as the parent/carer may be coming to police attention for other reasons which are possibly associated. 

The meeting could conclude:

  • This is not FII and health should continue their involvement. The reasons for this must be clearly recorded. The meeting should decide actions by staff including monitoring of the situation and triggers for further action;
  • This might be FII but more information/ medical evaluation is required. Medical evaluation is discussed below;
  • This is FII and a referral to the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) should be made so that a strategy meeting can be arranged. If the child is in hospital and there are concerns about significant harm as a consequence of FII then discharge should not take place until the strategy meeting has taken place. Consideration needs to be given to the welfare of other children in the same household.

If any professional considers their concerns about FII are not being taken seriously or responded to appropriately then they should discuss these with their lead professional for child protection.

8. Medical Evaluation

When the child is acutely ill and significant harm has occurred or there are concerns that the child is at risk of such harm and safety is an issue the child should be admitted for close observation until medical evaluation is complete.

Where the child’s health and safety is more secure the priority is to obtain as much information about the clinical events as possible. Careful history taking and examination is central to this process. For children who are not already under the care of a paediatrician the child’s GP should make a referral to a paediatrician.

The consultant who is responsible for the child’s health is the key clinical lead for the case and should take lead responsibility for all decisions about the child’s healthcare. This role is known as theresponsible paediatric consultant and it is important that timely agreement is made of who takes on this responsibility.

The use of a treatment diary for those families for who there are FII concerns should be considered.  This will be held by the family and document the prescribed medication and the responsible paediatric consultant contact details. Other information may include appointment details, symptoms and duration. It would be expected for the family to carry this diary to all appointments, and this may prevent the family taking their child to different hospitals / doctors for treatment and medication.  There is no set format for this diary as it is more appropriate to work out what information is required for each individual case. 

Discussion with the Designated Doctor or MKHFT Named Doctor for Child Protection can help guide the process.

Informal discussions with experienced social workers and the police may prove of benefit.  If noxious substances or assault injuries have caused harm to a child, a crime will have occurred that needs to be investigated by police and CSC.

Nurseries and schools may also have an important contribution but care needs to be exercised in the way enquiries are made.

If concerns persist and FII is a definite possibility then a wider assessment by Children’s Social Care should take place.

9. Referral to Children's Social Care

When a possible explanation for the signs and symptoms is that they may have been fabricated or induced by a carer and as a consequence the child’s health or development is or is likely to be impaired, a referral should be made to Children’s Social Care.

A referral may follow:

  • An emerging concerns professional’s meeting;
  • A medical evaluation;
  • Acute clinical situation.

Whilst professionals should in general discuss any concerns with the family and where possible seek agreement this should only be done where such discussion and agreement seeking will not place the child at increased risk of harm or lead to interference with any potential investigation.

The referral should be made to the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH using the Multi Agency Referral Form (MARF). The referrer will need to follow this up with a telephone call to ensure that the referral has been received. The referral must include exactly what the concerns are and include the professional meeting notes summary.

Following referral Children’s Social Care will organise a strategy meeting involving health, social care and police. The timing of the meeting depends on the urgency of the situation and the perceived risk. Forensic and medical evidence will need to be taken into consideration.

In order to safeguard the child’s welfare it is important that all three agencies work closely together in making and taking forward decisions about future action, recognising each others roles and responsibilities.

 

10. Strategy Meeting

At a minimum the meeting requires the involvement of:

  • Children’s Social Care;
  • Child Abuse Investigation Unit (CAIU);
  • Responsible paediatric consultant.

The following professionals should be invited if appropriate:

  • Senior ward nurse if child is an in-patient;
  • Named Nurse Child Protection;
  • GP;
  • Health Visitor/School Nurse;
  • Staff from relevant education setting;
  • Involved allied health professionals;
  • Local authority’s legal advisor;
  • A medical professional with expertise in the relevant branch of medicine.

Attendance must be restricted to those who need to be aware of the concerns in the best interests of the child. All participants need to be appraised of the utmost need for confidentiality.

The first task of the strategy team is to share concerns about the possibility of FII and what steps should be taken to safeguard the child.

It is crucial that the responsible paediatric consultant explains the medical issues as clearly as possible to the other agencies and plays a central role in the process. If there is any doubt about the medical evidence appropriate opinions need to be sought. It may be that a small panel consisting of a general paediatrician, specialist paediatrician and Designated Doctor for Child Protection is brought together to review the case if there is significant doubt about the diagnosis.

As a result of the strategy meeting three conclusions are possible:

  • The child is neither in need nor at risk of harm. Health and other services will continue their involvement;
  • The child is a Child in Need. Joint work will continue and appropriate services will be provided under section 17;
  • The child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm. An enquiry will be instigated under section 47.

Depending on the conclusion reached decisions need to be made about:

  • Who will carry out what actions, by when and for what purpose, in particular planning of further paediatric assessments;
  • How the child can be given an opportunity to tell their story. This requires careful planning and consideration;
  • What further information is required about the child and family and how it should be obtained and recorded;
  • Any particular factors such as the child and family’s race, ethnicity, language and special needs should be taken into account;
  • The needs of the parents/ carers including what information will be given to them and by whom;
  • The needs of the siblings and other children with whom the perpetrator has contact;
  • Security of medical records;
  • Whether the child requires constant professional observation and if so whether the parents/ carers can be present;
  • The nature and timing of any police investigations including analysis of samples and covert surveillance (this will be police led and coordinated). The Chief Executive and Lead Director for Child Protection of Milton Keynes Hospital Foundation Trust should be kept informed of any decisions to use covert video surveillance in the Trust).

More than one strategy meeting may be necessary particularly when the circumstances are very complex and a number of discussions are required to consider whether and if so when to initiate section 47 enquiries.

 

11. Section 47 Enquiries (as part of Child and Family Single Assessment)

Children’s Social Care will undertake the Child and Family Single Assessment, which will include the gathering of information about the history of the child and each family member. Emphasis should be given to both physical and mental health of family members, education and employment as well as receipt of state benefits and charitable donations relating to a disabled child, social and family functioning and any history of criminal involvement.

It is important to assess the child’s understanding of their symptoms and the nature of their relationship with each significant family member including care givers.

Specialist assessments must be considered. For example, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, education services, child psychologists and child and adolescent and adult mental health services may be involved in the assessment of individuals or of families.

Careful and detailed record keeping by all staff is very important for any subsequent police investigation or court proceedings. Notes should be kept in a secure place so that unauthorised persons cannot access them.

12. Initial Child Protection Conference

If it is deemed necessary that a child protection conference is required the timing of the conference will depend on the urgency of the case and time needed to obtain relevant information.

It is essential that the responsible paediatric consultant and the GP attend this conference and thought needs to be given to facilitate this.

13. Police Investigation

Any evidence gathered by the police should be available to other relevant professionals to inform discussions and decisions about the child’s welfare and contribute to the section 47 enquiry and Child and Family Single Assessment unless this is likely to prejudice criminal proceedings.

It is important that suspects’ rights are protected by adherence to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and European Convention on Human Rights 1984. In a criminal investigation no other agency other than the police should be confronting any suspect(s) under investigation.

14. Roles and Responsibilities

A clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of others is essential for effective collaboration. Joint working is essential. 

Health

Health professionals may feel a conflict of loyalty, especially when their primary patient is not the child. However the primary concern should always be to safeguard and promote the child's welfare.

Once a health practitioner has suspicions that fabricated or induced illness is being presented, he or she should consult the named or designated doctor or nurse for child protection keeping detailed notes of the discussions.

Health practitioners should not discuss their concerns with the parents at this stage.

Contemporaneous notes should be maintained at all times and close multidisciplinary and interagency working is essential.

Health professionals can seek advice and support from the named or designated professionals for child protection.

General Practitioners

All members of the Primary Health Care Team are well placed to recognise the early symptoms of fabricated or induced illness in a child. In families where FII is encountered parental concern is inappropriately increased. Abnormal illness behaviour needs to be recognised early and contained.

The common warning signs in the primary care setting are:

  • Exaggeration of symptoms;
  • Very frequent consultations with appointments made at short notice. This facilitates the process whereby the parent/ carer meets different doctors who are relatively junior i.e. GP registrars or even locums;
  • Persistent demands for tests;
  • Medication of trivial symptoms and overzealous interventions;
  • Inappropriate requests for multiple opinions.

Abnormal illness behaviour can sometimes be contained by:

Consultation organisation

The parent/ carer is offered planned appointments with one or two senior doctors who are aware of the background and history.

Consultation style

“Active Listening” generally recommended for negotiation is a helpful (if time consuming) process for these families. It is important to listen, show you have listened by paraphrasing/ summarising what they have said. This is conducive to getting agreement on the concerns raised.

This can be followed by an emphasis on the normal objective findings. Ensure the positive aspects of the child’s health are accentuated.

Ensure the parent/ carer is made aware of your concern about the emphasis on ill-health. A management plan can then be hopefully worked out. The following tools are useful.

  • Symptom diaries: These are particularly useful for paroxysmal events especially if completed by all caregivers (separated parents, child-minders, schools, nurseries);
  • Written care plans: These are very useful to give consistency in the management of common events and need to be agreed between caregivers and professionals;
  • Parents held health records: This is a combination of the above two documents and are a useful tool for complex cases where more than one hospital, multiple clinical teams, multiple care givers and perhaps different agencies are involved. Experience has been that the knowledge that professionals are communicating and working towards consistent management of a child’s problems is a very positive influence on the outcome.

Any concerns that other primary care staff have should be discussed with the child's GP, with a view to referring to a Paediatrician, unless already known to them.

Second opinions can be useful to settle the usual professional worry that the parents may be right, the anxiety is well founded and that a serious medical problem has been missed. This needs to be negotiated so that only one is requested. The referral letter needs to be skilfully written acknowledging the discrepancy in the level of concern but without undue efforts to prejudice the outcome. The local paediatrician is well placed to provide advice on tertiary specialists. It is essential that invasive tests and procedures are not duplicated.

The responsible GP should consult the Designated or Named Doctor/Nurse for Child Protection about the child and keep him/her informed in the process. This applies particularly when the threshold between abnormal illness behaviour and FII is approached.

Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors

Because of their contact with children and their families in community and hospital settings, these staff groups play an important role in not only providing services but are also an important part of the multi disciplinary team and should contribute to the assessment and planning process.

Where a nurse, midwife or health visitor has concerns that a carer is impairing a child's health and development by fabricating or inducing illness, the practitioner should explore the presenting information to see where it is on the continuum from parental concern, over-anxiety, through to suspected significant harm.  In cases where fabricated or induced illness is suspected, the process suggested in the management of an individual case should be followed.

Advice and support should be sought from the named nurses/midwife for child protection.  It is also available from Children's Social Care.

Midwives should be alert to the information given by the mother during pregnancy especially in relation to strange illnesses; unusual complications of pregnancy, unexpected deaths in the family; family members with untreatable illnesses; or her children having complicated medical histories; histories of failure to thrive or non accidental injuries; and if signs and symptoms reported by the mother are not observed by the midwife.

Nurses may be responsible for collecting specimens such as urine or faeces. These should be collected and sent off in such a way that they cannot be interfered with.

Hospital staff

Junior medical and nursing staff

A common scenario is for a child to be presented repeatedly, usually out of hours with a history of symptoms incongruous with the clinical findings. You may be asked to review a child who has stopped breathing or had a seizure and find the child appears unusually well given the history.

Initial management:

  • Document concerns in a factual manner;
  • Discuss with the consultant at the earliest opportunity;
  • Ensure the child is being nursed on an open ward to facilitate supervision if this is not clinically contra-indicated;
  • Consider close monitoring;
  • Keep medical records secure;
  • Do not discuss your concern with the parent/ carer at this stage.

Consultant Paediatricians

When faced with a child in whom you suspect some or all of the signs and symptoms of illness are being fabricated or induced by the carer, the consultant responsible for the child's health care should assume role of ‘responsible paediatric consultant’ as per the RCPCH document and take lead responsibility for all decisions about the child's health care.

Initial management:

  • Document early concerns in the child’s medical notes so that other clinicians have access to that information;
  • Carer’s access to notes may have to be restricted;
  • Discuss concerns with Named and Designated Health Professionals and other relevant staff including nurses;
  • Conduct and document an immediate assessment of the risk of harm based on relevant information. Is constant supervision needed?
  • Consider whether planned admission, any immediate investigations or opinions are likely to assist in diagnosis;
  • Prepare a chronology;
  • Stop any harmful treatments or invasive procedures unless clearly indicated.

It is important for the Consultant to:

  • Share concerns with Children's Social Care at the earliest opportunity;
  • Gather information from all sources;
  • Achieve clarity in diagnosis;
  • Ensure a high standard of record-keeping.

Allied Health Professionals

Range of professionals, e.g. speech therapists, physiotherapists, dieticians, working in health settings may play a role in identifying and managing fabricated and induced illness in children.  When concerns arise they should be discussed with the line manager, seek advice from the named nurse or doctor and referring to GP or Paediatrician as appropriate.

Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (SpCAMHS)

SpCAMHS professionals may be the first to identify that a fabricated or induced illness is being presented to them in the form of fabricated or induced emotional or behavioural symptoms.

Requests for advice may be received from other professionals when fabricated or induced illness is considered a possibility. SpCAMHS professionals should provide an opportunity for other professionals to clarify their thinking, and consider possible reasons for parental behaviours and anxieties.

In the course of an assessment of a child and family where fabricated or induced illness is an issue, the service should, if requested, contribute with other professionals to the provision of an assessment. The most important areas will be an assessment of the child's psychological functioning, in particular the child's beliefs and possible anxieties, about their state of health, ways to support and to improve this family's functioning and an assessment of the parents capacity to meet the child's needs.

SpCAMHS professionals may also make a contribution to an assessment of the mental health functioning of a parent. Here it will be important to liaise with colleagues in adult mental health services.

If a child has suffered significant harm as a result of fabricated or induce illness, SpCAMHS professionals may need to provide interventions and services as part of the overall plan for the child.

Adult Mental Health Services

The full range of adult mental health professionals, including nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, may need to be involved in an assessment and the treatment of a carer of a potentially abused child. This involvement may follow the raising of concerns in relation to fabricated or induced illness in a child during the course of section 47 enquiries and subsequent actions, or following the identification of the carer's involvement in the abuse or likely abuse of a child.

Through their involvement with a patient, adult mental health professionals may become concerned about the welfare of a child. This may be if a carer has a somatising disorder or is known to fabricate or induce illness in themselves. If concerns about a child become apparent they should discuss these concerns with a named or designated doctor/nurse or with Children's Social Care Duty Social Worker.

Children's Social Care

Under the 1989 Children Act Milton Keynes Children's Social Care have lead responsibility for the protection of children. These responsibilities fall into four main areas:

Assessment

This will be conducted in conjunction with the doctor who is medically responsible for the child's health and other relevant agencies. It will include a full chronology of the information gathered about the medical, psychiatric and social history, and an understanding of the child's needs and the parents' capacities to ensure the child's health and developmental progress.

Children's Social Care is responsible for convening strategy discussions and s47 investigations and where appropriate, initial and review Child Protection Conferences. The police will decide whether to instigate a criminal investigation.

Planning

If concerns are substantiated but the child is not judged to be at continuing risk of harm, a child in need plan will be developed setting out what services are to be provided by whom, and what agency has the lead responsibility for reviewing the plan at regular intervals.

Children's Social Care will have responsibility for coordinating the multi agency child protection plan to safeguard the child, so must ensure that their staff are sufficiently senior to be able to commit the department to following through any recommendations regarding action to be taken.

If it is found that the child's welfare cannot be safeguarded if she/he remains at home, Children's Social Care may seek parents' agreement for voluntary accommodation or may apply to the courts for an Emergency Protection Order or Care Order (involving the local authority's solicitor)

Provision of Services

Children's Social Care has a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need in their area, through the provision of services appropriate to the needs of the children.

Reviewing

Children's Social Care has lead responsibility for reviewing any child protection plan.

Education/Early Years

Through their day-to-day contact with children, early year's staff, teachers and other school staff are particularly well-placed to notice outward signs of harm, and have an important role to play in the identification and management of suspected cases of fabricated or induced illness.

School staff should refer any child welfare concerns they have to the teacher with designated responsibility for child protection. The designated teacher can seek advice from the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH). Early year's staff should refer any child welfare concerns they have to their designated child protection officer, who will report any concerns to the designated child protection representative in the Local Authority, Children's Social Care.

The following are factors that teachers and other school staff should be aware of that can indicate that a pupil may be at risk:

  • There are frequent and unexplained absences from school, particularly from PE lessons;
  • School notice regular absences to keep a doctor's or a hospital appointment;
  • Repeated claims by parent(s)/carers that a child is frequently unwell and that medical attention is required for symptoms that are vague in nature, difficult to diagnose and which teachers themselves have not noticed e.g. headaches, tummy aches, dizzy spells, frequent contact with opticians/dentists or referrals for second opinions;
  • Child disclosing ill treatment or complaining about multiple visits to the doctor to a teacher/teaching assistant;
  • Reports of conflicting or untrue stories about illness, accidents or deaths in the family.

The designated teacher for child protection or the early years designated child protection officer is responsible for making the referral to Children's Social Care.  School staff/early years staff should not carry out their own enquiries but maintain a chronology of events/concerns (using Appendix 2), including a record of absences and the reasons for absence given by the parent.  The designated teacher is normally invited to attend any strategy meeting or case conference.

Police

The Child Abuse Investigation Unit (CAIU) should be made aware of cases of suspected criminal offences at an early stage.

The priority for the police will be to protect the child or young person, and to assist the Paediatrician in reaching an understanding of the child's health status.  Once a crime is alleged to have been committed the police will need to ensure the rights of the suspect are upheld and that evidence is gathered in a fair and appropriate way.

Police should carry out any work within a hospital sensitively and delicately, with any disruption to normal ward life being kept to a minimum e.g. using plain-clothes officers.

Voluntary, Independent and Private Social Care Sectors

Voluntary organisations and independent and private sector providers play a significant role in the provision of services to children in need. They provide a wide range of supportive services and may be involved in providing services after fabricated or induced illness has been identified.

Staff and volunteers should be aware of this guidance and the procedures in place to ensure that when they are concerned a child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm appropriate referrals are made in accordance with MKSCB procedures. This applies in instances where a concern arises that a child may be subject to maltreatment due to fabricated or induced illness.

15. Record Keeping

Good record keeping is paramount to good practice and is an important part of accountability of professionals. Clear and accurate records ensure that there is a documented account of an agency, or professional's involvement with a child and/or family. Records are an essential source of evidence for section 47 enquiries and investigations

The recording of a detailed chronology which includes medical, psychiatric and social histories of the child, parents, siblings and other significant family members is important when identifying fabricated or induced illness in a child, as it enables patterns of presentation to be recognised.

Requests for access to the child's records should be actioned in accordance with each agency's Access to Records policy. Where there is any doubt about the retention or disclosure of information, legal advice should be sought.

Documentation should be recorded in a separate section in the child's file.

16. Supervision and Support

It is acknowledged that working with families where it is suspected that illness is fabricated or induced is demanding, and can be distressing and stressful.

Agencies should have a supervision policy, which identifies how, where and when staff can access supervision about such cases.  Everyone should have access to advice and support from peers and managers.

 

17. References

Children Act 1989

Safeguarding Children in Whom Illness is Fabricated or Induced. (2009, RCPCH)

Every Child and Young Person in Milton Keynes Matters (2006).  Milton Keynes: Learning and Development Directorate

Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, October 2009, Fabricated or Induced Illness by Carers

Fabricated or induced illness in children: a rare form of child abuse? NSPCC Research Briefing

Appendix 1: Preparing a FII Chronology

The information available to a meeting about a possible case of Fabricated or Induced Illness (FII) is enormous and can be difficult to organise. As complete a picture of the concerns is essential. All information will need examining, and the integrating of all reports will be necessary. If freehand chronologies are provided by all the agencies and individual professionals concerned, this task becomes impossible.

Appendix 2 is the chronology template to be used in possible cases of FII. It can then be merged and sorted.

Date: is self explanatory.
Name: is the individual involved in the episode.
Source: is the agency (Children's Social Care etc) or individual, it could be either in the same chronology.
Episode/event: is a record from the clinical story.
Category: is the category of warning sign referred to in the template.
Comment: allows for points to be noted, clarification to be sought.

What to include in the chronology

The template should be used to organise the information, to include any event that comes under any one of the categories of warning sign so that it can be discussed.

If every single contact with any professional is included, the chronology loses its value. On the other hand, any selection has the risk of excluding a vital detail. It is advised to include all relevant information, including relatively trivial injuries, which in fact may be accidents as there is an increasing recognition of the links between all other forms of abuse and Fabricated or Induced Illness.

It is worth noting the number of signs or symptoms in the children and the number of medications and details. Reported side effects of medication are also important. The number of invasive tests and/or operations should be included and the number of different medical teams involved. Missed appointments, unexplained absences from school/early years should be recorded.

Appendix 2: FII Chronology Template

Category Warning Signs of Fabricated or Induced Illness
1

Reported symptoms and signs found on examination are not explained

Reported symptoms and signs found on examination are not explained by any medical condition from which the child may be suffering. Here the doctor is attempting to put all of the information together to make a diagnosis but the symptoms and signs do not correlate with any recognised disease, or where there is disease known to be present. A very simple example would be a skin rash, which did not correlate with any known skin disease and had, in fact, been produced by the perpetrator. An experienced doctor should be on their guard if something described is outside their previous experience, i.e. the symptoms and signs do not correlate with any recognisable disease or with a disease know to be present.

2

Physical examination and results of medical investigations do not explain reported symptoms and signs

Physical examination and appropriate investigations do not confirm the reported clinical story. For example, it is reported a child turns yellow (has jaundice) but no jaundice is confirmed when the child is examined and a test for jaundice, if appropriate, is negative. A child with frequent convulsions every day has no abnormalities on a 24 hours EEG recording.

3

There is an inexplicably poor response to prescribed medication and other treatments

The practitioner should be alerted when treatment for the agreed condition does not produce the expected effect. This can result in escalating drugs with no apparent response, using multiple medications to control a routine problem and multiple changes in medication due to either poor response or frequent reports of side effects. On investigation, toxic drug levels commonly occur but may be interspersed with low drug levels suggesting extremely variable administration of medication fluctuating from over-medication to withdrawal of medication.  Another feature may be the welcoming of intrusive investigations and treatments by the parent.

4

New symptoms are reported on resolution of previous ones

New symptoms often bear no likely relationship to the previous set of symptoms. For example, in a child where the focus has been diarrhoea and vomiting, when appropriate assessments fail to confirm this, the story changes to one of convulsions. Sometimes this is manifest by the parents transferring consultation behaviour to another child in the family.

5

Reported symptoms and found signs are not seen to begin in the absence of the carer

Reported symptoms and found signs are not seen to begin in the absence of the carer i.e. the perpetrator is the only witness of the signs and symptoms. For example, reported symptoms and signs are not observed at school or during admission to hospital. This should particularly raise anxiety of Fabricated or Induced Illness where the severity and/or lack of independent observation is remarkable. Caution should be exercised when accepting statements from non-medically qualified people that symptoms have been observed. Such people may use labels because they have been told that is the appropriate description of the behaviour they are seeing.

6

The child's normal, daily life activities are being curtailed beyond that which might be expected for any medical disorder from which the child is known to suffer

The carer limits the child's activities to an unreasonable degree and often either without knowledge of medical professionals or against their advice. For example, confining a child to a wheelchair when there is no reason for this, insisting on restrictions of physical activity when not necessary, adherence to extremely strict diets when there is no medical reason for this, restricting child's school attendance.

7

Over time the child is repeatedly presented with a range of signs and symptoms

At its most extreme this has been referred to as "doctor shopping". The extent and extraordinary nature of the additional consultations is often of magnitude greater than any concerned parent would explore. Often consultations about the same or different problems are concealed in different medical facilities. Thus the patient might be being investigated in one hospital with one set of problems and the parent will initiate assessments elsewhere for a completely different set of problems (or even the same) without informing these various medical professionals about the other consultations.

8

History of unexplained illnesses or deaths or multiple surgery in parents or siblings of the family

The emphasis here is on the unexplained. Illness and deaths in parents or siblings can frequently be a clue to further investigation and hence a diagnosis in naturally occurring illness. In Fabricated or Induced Illness abuse, perpetrators frequently have had multiple unexplained medical problems themselves, ranging from frequent consultation with the GP, through to multiple presentations resulting in multiple (unnecessary) operations. Self-harm, often multiple, and eating disorders are further common features in perpetrators.

9

Once perpetrator's access to the child is restricted, signs and symptoms fade and eventually disappear (similar to category 5 above)

This is a planned separation of perpetrator and child which it has been agreed will have a high likelihood of proving (or disproving) Fabricated or Induced Illness. The perpetrator frequently insists on remaining at the child's bedside and thrives in a hospital environment.

10

Exaggerated catastrophes or fabricated bereavements and other extended family problems are reported

This is an extension of category 8. On exploring reported illnesses or deaths in other family members (often very dramatic stories) no evidence is found to confirm these stories.

11

Incongruity between the seriousness of the story and the actions of the parents

Given a concerning story, parents by and large will cooperate with medical efforts to resolve the problem. They will attend outpatients, attend for investigations and bring the child for review urgently when requested, but avoid contacts, which would resolve the problem. There is incongruity between their expressed concerns and the actions they take. They repeatedly fail to attend for crucial investigation. They go to hospitals that do not have the background information.

12

Erroneous or misleading information provided by parent

These perpetrators are adept at spinning a web of misinformation which perpetrates and amplifies the illness story, increases access to interventions in the widest sense (more treatment, more investigations, more restrictions on the child or help etc). An extreme example of this is spreading the idea that the child is going to die when in fact no one in the medical profession has ever suggested this.  Changing or inconsistent stories should be recognised and challenged.

13

Presentation of specific problems such as unexplained apnoea or coma

Whilst there are many diseases that produce apnoea or coma the seriousness of the symptoms and the relative frequency of FII as a cause make it important to consider FII early when initial investigations are normal.

14

Past history of child abuse or self-harm in the carer

This may have been disclosed by a parent/carer or on gathering information this information is discovered.

15

History of somatising disorder in the carer

Non-organic symptoms are very common in perpetrators of FII and the involvement of the GP is central in gathering appropriate information.

 

 



This page is correct as printed on Friday 20th of April 2018 04:43:10 AM please refer back to this website (http://mkscb.procedures.org.uk) for updates.
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