How to make our Organizations Child Friendly and Child Safe
Below are some basic steps ensure child safety within our organisations. It is highly recommended that
every organisation comes up with their own list that is best suited in the context in which they operate.
1) Screening of Staff and Volunteers
Many organizations make the mistake of assuming that screening is synonymous with criminal background checks. Background checks are not an end-all. Because so few cases of sexual abuse are reported, and even fewer prosecuted, the yield tends to be fairly low with background checks. Therefore, organizations should make sure that criminal background checks are not the only element of their child protection policy, since they alone are insufficient to protect children.
On the other hand, organizations should not minimize the importance of including criminal background checks in the screening process. Furthermore, if an abuse allegation occurs in an organization and criminal background checks have not been done, the organization is potentially exposed legally.
Probably the most positive perspective for any organization to have in the screening process is to think in terms of selecting the best possible staff and volunteers to work with youth, rather than thinking in terms of screening out potential perpetrators. In determining the specific approach to selecting staff and volunteers, an organization should consider its mission and make sure that the policies and procedures that are developed resonate with that mission.
An organization should also make sure that the entire screening process is incorporated into an overall human resource policy that includes careful supervision of all staff and volunteers who have responsibility for children and youth.
2) Policy Regarding Isolated, One-On-One Situations & Risk Assessment
Clear guidelines should be established for isolated, one-on-one situations. Many organizations strictly prohibit one-on-one time under any circumstances. However, for organizations that address the needs of children and adolescents, one-on-one mentoring/tutoring/support is often considered important to a childs development. If this is the case for an organization, very specific guidelines about such one-on-one time should be clearly articulated.
High and low risk situations in your organization should be clearly defined. For example, a situation where one teacher is with a group of children in an open classroom where other adults are walking in and out would be considered low risk. A situation where an adult is alone with a child, driving from one activity to another, would be high risk.
Observable and Interruptible
Essentially, determination of risk has to do with the degree to which situations are observable and interruptible. An adult can mentor a child privately by finding a spot that is away from others, but that is still in an open area that is observable. For example, an adult and child might sit at a picnic bench. Their conversation can be private under this circumstance, but easily observed. Many organizations carefully design physical space to permit observable and interruptible one-on-one time. For example, windows are installed in all doors, even closets, and policy is established that prohibits them from being covered.
Most prudent is a policy that requires two adults to be present at all times when children and adolescents are being supervised. Many organizations require that the two adults not be family members. A helpful addition to this policy is that whenever groups of children are being supervised, an extra adult should be available as a “floater” to stand in if one of the two adults in a classroom or other situation must leave the area.
All organizations with child protection policy should carefully consider policy for toileting/diapering, driving with youth, and overnight activities. Each organization is unique; therefore generic policy is difficult to articulate. However, the clearer an organization is about the acceptable way to handle these situations, the less likely an incident in which a child is violated will occur.
3) Prevention Training for Staff and Volunteers
A good child protection policy should require training that brings awareness about child sexual abuse and shifts adult attitudes about who is responsible for protecting children and what actions might be taken to protect children. Aarambh can train you team or connect you with appropriate training organizations. Write in to us at info (at) aarambhindia.org
Plan for Reporting Suspected Abuse
Organizations should clearly articulate policy about how reports of suspected sexual abuse should be made and processed. The policy should include specific information about to whom an initial report is made, in what format, and expectations about how the process will unfold. The policy should also be absolutely clear about the fact that staff should never investigate allegations. Investigations should always be left up to the proper authorities.
The above list is taken from Darkness to Light .