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Top Tips for Identifying and Engaging

Please find below some top tips to use when working with families.

These tips have been identified to support practitioners to notice when another adult is involved in a child’s life where it wasn’t expected or reported. The presence of another adult may be a safeguarding risk but equally may be a source of support to a child.

Every agency has its own key points where information is sought or provided (see flow charts).

The purpose of the ‘top tips’ is to increase professionals’ awareness and to assist in prompting professionals to notice changes, outside of the usual contact.

It may not appropriate for all professionals to question but to share information with the relevant agency.

Practitioners who come into contact with an unidentified adult should clarify with an adult with parental responsibility who that adult is.


  • The main carer references another person in a child’s life in conversations.
  • Children refer to another unknown adult in conversation or through play/imitation.
  • Presence of another person on visits/contacts.
  • Presence of another person at appointments and locations, for example, at the school gate or medical appointments.
  • Instinct or ‘tacit knowledge’ plays an important part. For example, someone else new in the house who appears to be ‘at home’ or taking on a caring role for the children.
  • Physical evidence of another person which contradicts what you were expecting, for example, personal possessions evident around the household, spare bedrooms in use / spare bedding visible.
  • When someone is introduced as a family member which does not ‘fit’ with existing knowledge of the family situation.
  • Other adult in the household who ‘removes’ themselves when the professional arrives.
  • Information provided to a professional by a third party.
  • Change in a child’s behaviour or primary carer’s behaviour.
  • New adults answering questions being directed at the primary care giver or child.
  • Falling into rent arrears.
  • Changes to the condition of the property.
  • New vehicles parking at the property.
  • Change in a child’s appearance or demeanour.
  • Not keeping pre-arranged appointments.
  • Constant presence of someone not known at the property/answering the door etc.
  • Information may need to be flagged/checked/verified with another professional, not necessarily challenged by the worker at that time. Professionals need to consider asking partner agencies what information they hold about the child and family.


  • Introducing yourself or asking to be introduced to another person.
  • Asking them to introduce themselves.
  • Enquiring respectfully about other adults who may be in a child’s life who can offer support or who may need support. This information could be gained by aiming questions to the adult rather than the child – particularly if they are a single parent / working parent. For example – is there anyone who you can/do ask to help with things around the house or the children?
  • All written communication should be inclusive of all key people in a person’s or child’s life.
  • Being aware of an individual’s concerns about sharing information due to loss of benefits, implications for housing provisions or previous experience of services.
  • Offering the next contact at a time when the other adult can be present and noting the response to this, for example, happily accepted or avoided.
  • Asking a direct question as to why they are at the property.
  • Asking where they normally reside.