As safeguarding professionals it is important that we consider the sometimes vital role that animals play today in supporting children, young people and adults at risk, through therapy, friendships, healing and recovery.
What you may not know is that historically organisations that have protected animals have been part of the formation and the influence on some of the first national societies to prevent abuse and cruelty to children.
In 1874 a young girl in New York USA named Mary Ellen McCormack was found to be suffering from horrendous abuse at the hands of her foster mother. Etta Wheeler a church worker wanted to help this child but at that time found there were no organisations that could offer the right support. She saw her only option then was to approach a man called Henry Bergh who founded the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
The ASPCA was established in 1874 and was in part influenced by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) that had been established many years before. Wheeler worked with Bergh who secured a place of safety for Mary Ellen and after this she urged him to establish a society dedicated to prevention of cruelty to children.
The following year, in April 1875, the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC) was formed and became the world’s first child protective agency. The cross Atlantic partnership however did not stop there and in 1881 a Liverpool businessman Thomas Agnew visited the newly formed NYSPCC. As a Safeguarding pioneer he could see the importance of such an organisation and on returning to the UK he set up the Liverpool Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Over the next five years many other towns and cities followed suit
As part of this changing attitude to childhood in 1877 an official magazine was established called the “Child’s Guardian”. This chronicle was developed and modelled upon the RSPCA periodical “Animal world’. The magazine’s focus was to educate and inform the public about the heinous nature of child cruelty. By continuing to raise the profile of child protection awareness in 1889 the UK government passed the first law to protect children and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was formed (NSPCC)
So when we consider animals as part of our wider safeguarding interventions let us not forget that the plight of their suffering formed the bedrock for our early safeguarding organisations and newsfeeds. Although now passed, World Animal Day pledges to speak for the voiceless, raise awareness for the vulnerable and improve the future for all animals. As Safeguarding professionals we must continue to provide a voice for the vulnerable, the raise awareness of abuse and cruelty and continue to improve the lives of the child.