- Karen Rasmussen
We don’t work with children – so why would we need a child Safeguarding policy?
“Our programs aren’t child-focused so we don’t need a child Safeguarding policy”
“We don’t work directly with children”
“We’re not a child-focused agency”
“Children are not our direct beneficiaries”
“We are a faith-based organisation… we hire only good, moral staff.
We know that our staff would never abuse children.”
Real Quotes from Organisations
There has long been a perception that policies and procedures to protect children from abuse are somehow only relevant for agencies that work directly with children, or provide child-focused services. This is not true. Children are abused in all types of situations, in all countries and communities, enabled by organisations that are child-focused but also by those that are not.
We must remember that protecting children is everyone’s responsibility. Organisations and professionals who work with children (directly and indirectly) as well as those that work within communities (but not with children), need to ensure that their policies and practices reflect this responsibility.
Research shows us that people who abuse children target organisations and workplaces where they can have easier access to children. They target workplaces and communities where there are no policies, procedures, or enforced practices to protect children.
Adults can and do abuse children in every kind of setting – it does not have to be in a child-focused program and / or activity. Remember that children are everywhere – in families, villages, neighbourhoods, religious institutions, and camps for refugees and internally-displaced people.
Children may be less visible in a program which is not child-focused, but this factor can make it all the more easy for an abuser to target them.
Some fundamental points about people who abuse children:
They are often clever and very intelligent
They are usually known as ‘Nice’ people and generally are liked by those around them
They are good at hiding their intentions and the abuse they commit
They are experts at gaining the trust of children and the adults around them
They may be in a position of power including someone who can provide money, food, or favours to a child, their family or community, in exchange for access to a child
They may target children within the context of a program, or in the general community that a program or organisation operates in
They may also be a staff member in the ‘background’, such as a security guard, a driver, or in an administrative or IT position
They are from all countries and origins
They are from both genders although the majority are male
Some fundamental points about organisational child safeguarding policies:
Global, best-practice child safeguarding standards have already been developed through years of solid research and evidence of what works in various settings. This means that there is no need to ‘reinvent the wheel’. These existing standards, tools and templates can be adapted to any kind of setting
A policy is only as good as the paper it is written on – if it is not continuously lived, implemented, monitored and evaluated, it will not protect children from abuse
A child safeguarding policy should include several key components – each component plays an important role, and together they make up the policy
Ideally, all staff should be involved in developing a policy. At the very least, senior management must be involved
Senior management, the board of directors, and donors all play a vital role in demonstrating leadership to all staff the importance of the child safeguarding policy
All staff will need training in the policy; a plan for induction of new staff should be developed
People living in the communities where organisations are working also need to be made aware of the policy – at the very least, the child protection code of conduct and reporting mechanism must be accessible to the public, including translation into relevant languages and development of a child-friendly version
What can go wrong if someone in your organisation abuses a child?
Child abuse can destroy a child’s entire life – many children will never fully recover from the effects of abuse, even as an adult. The emotional and psychological impacts of child abuse are devastating
The child may become pregnant, contract an STI or suffer severe physical injury. They may become severely depressed, begin using drugs, or attempt suicide
Your staff member or volunteer can be arrested and tried for a criminal offense. Alternatively, in countries with weak law enforcement, vigilante justice may be meted out, resulting in serious physical harm or death of the staff/volunteer
Your organisation can have its license to operate in a community or country revoked
Your organisation can lose donor funding
Negative media attention can have a serious impact on your organisation’s reputation
Mistrust from communities, donors and other organisations may mean your organisation can no longer carry out its work
So the question remains: Does YOUR organisation need a child safeguarding policy?
Below is a checklist for organisations to use when considering whether they need a child safeguarding policy.
If your organisation…
Has staff working in communities;
Conducts humanitarian activities;
Works with disadvantaged children or children with disabilities;
Delivers emergency relief;
Is a religious institution, e.g. a mosque, church, synagogue or temple;
Provides education to children, whether full curriculum, language classes or vocational;
Conducts sports activities with children;
Regularly engages volunteers, whether from the local community, other communities, or overseas;
Conducts study visits to communities;
Uses images (photos, videos) of children in marketing and fundraising;
If your organisation meets any of the 10 conditions above, it should have a child safeguarding policy and procedures in place. It should come as no surprise that all non-profit, humanitarian, religious, educational, and sports organisations need to have a child safeguarding policy: Children are everywhere, and anyone can abuse a child, any time and in any way.
Don’t let your organisation remain at risk – develop a robust child safeguarding policy and procedures, train your staff, raise awareness in the communities you work in, and protect children.
EVERYWHERE, EVERY TIME, NO EXCEPTIONS
For more information on how to develop a child safeguarding policy and procedures, you can contact Child Safe Horizons on email@example.com