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“It’s so rewarding working to protect the most vulnerable”. Those are the words of Detective Constable Sophie Wildman.
Today, on National Child Exploitation Awareness Day (18 March 2022.) DC Wildman is sharing information about the vital work she and her colleagues do every day to safeguard children who have been exploited or abused.
DC Wildman works for Northamptonshire Police in the Child Protection Team.
The Child Protection Team brings some of the county’s most depraved and predatory perpetrators to justice.
Dc Wildman has worked in the team for three years and said: “Ask anyone who works or has worked in Child Protection, and they will tell you that it’s one of the most rewarding roles in policing.”
It also has the reputation for being one of the toughest roles. The team deals with child sexual offences, and investigates allegations of neglect, physical and mental abuse, exploitation and the serious injury or death of a child.
They also play a pivotal role with MASH (Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub), which brings together key professionals from social services, education, health and other agencies such as probation and domestic abuse organisations.
DC Wildman says: “Joining the Child Protection Team has been career changing for me. I came from a Response background and this role has helped open the door for me to become a detective.
“Don’t get me wrong, it has it’s stresses, but it’s also one of the most rewarding jobs I have done. I have no doubt that we change the lives of our most vulnerable people for the better and give them hope for the future.
“By just simply giving a child a voice, we’re helping to safeguard them from those who are, in some cases, meant to love and protect them. The littlest voices often speak the loudest volume.”
National Child Exploitation Awareness Day aims to highlight the issues surrounding child exploitation, and encourage everyone to think, spot and speak out against child abuse and adopt a zero tolerance to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children.
DC Wildman admitted that: “Some cases can be more difficult than others to investigate, but we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t get affected by them from time to time.
“However, we have a great team, which is very supportive. You’re never on your own as there is always someone there to listen and support you when the going gets tough.”
“From the moment of deployment through to the conclusion of an investigation, we take on the case from start to finish, providing a voice for the child victim at all times.”
“Depending on the circumstances, our officers attend post-mortems, adopt the family liaison role, liaise with partner agencies, conduct all interviews, build the case file and attend court.”
Not all of Child Protection cases lead to criminal investigations, the team also work with families who have sadly lost a child through a sudden death or because of a tragic accident.
DC Wildman “To work in child protection, you just need to be a compassionate human being, who can offer reassurance to a child that everything is going to be ok. Or more simply, be the voice for that child.”
Northamptonshire Police is asking everyone to be on the look out for signs of child exploitation, including child sexual exploitation, trafficking, modern slavery, and child abuse.
If you suspect a person of carrying out child criminal exploitation, or think someone you know has been a victim, or may be soon, visit the Northamptonshire Police website How to report possible child abuse section or call the non-emergency number, 101. If someone is in immediate danger of harm, please call 999.