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  • Karen Rasmussen

What is Child Safeguarding?

Many times people have heard the term “child protection” and “child protection policy”, but “child safeguarding” and “child safeguarding policy” are terms that fewer people are familiar with. There are some very important distinctions between these terms, and understanding the difference is as important as understanding what child abuse is and how it can be prevented.

Child Protection: In its widest sense, child protection is a term used to describe the actions that individuals, organisations, countries and communities take to protect children from acts of harm (abuse) and exploitation, for example domestic violence, exploitative child labour, commercial and sexual exploitation and abuse, and physical violence, to name but a few. It can also be used as a broad term to describe the work that organisations (international or local non-government organizations, faith-based organizations, or UN agencies) undertake in particular communities, environments or programmes that protect children from the risk of harm due to the situation in which they are living.

Child Protection Policy: In its broadest sense, a child protection policy can be something that a government or a region develops, often with the support of UN agencies or international organizations. For example, there could be country – level or regional programs to combat trafficking of children within and across borders, or a country – level five year plan focusing on a range of child protection issues which the government will prioritise and fund. Child protection policies also refer to the organisational, human – resource policies which protect children from abuse by staff….but increasingly, the term “child safeguarding” is being used for this type of policy.

Child Safeguarding: Child safeguarding is a term used for internal facing, business - critical policies, procedures and practices that are employed to ensure that an organisation itself (local or international organisation, faith – based organisation, a school, religious institution, UN agency, etc.) is a child safe organisation.

A child – safe organisation is one in which:

  1. Anyone who represents the organisation behaves appropriately towards children and never abuses the position of trust that comes with being a member of the organisation

  2. Everyone associated with the organisation is aware of and responds appropriately to issues of child abuse and the sexual exploitation of children

  3. All activities are assessed for potential risks to children and mitigation strategies developed, and

  4. The organisation is driven by the duty of care that it has to children – and expresses that duty of care publicly through communication materials, staff training, a solid policy and accompanying procedures

Every organisation working with vulnerable populations should have policies in place to protect those individuals – and children, by the nature of their dependence on adults to meet their basic needs – can be vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by the very individuals they rely on and trust. It is important to understand that it is not only “child-focused” organisations, or organisations with child protection – oriented programs and work, which should have child safeguarding policies. Anyone in a position of trust or power can potentially abuse a child – and this includes staff of NGOs, religious and youth leaders, staff of UN or humanitarian organisations, diplomats or other government staff.

Child Safe Horizons has consultants who are experienced in working with a range of organisations, in varied program contexts and across cultures, to develop robust policies which will help protect children, staff, and organisations. We will work closely with your organisation, utilizing global best practices and tools which have been tried and tested over many years. At the same time, we will tailor a policy and training approach to the particular needs of your organisation. We are dedicated to building the capacity and skills of organisations in child safeguarding in order to ensure that staff members will feel confident in their work, ensure organisations remain accountable to beneficiary populations but most importantly, to ensure that all children who come into contact with those organisations are protected from all forms of abuse and exploitation.

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