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Child Protection Policy

Preamble

This policy was written by So They Can's Global Support Office for use across all So They Can operations.

So They Can operates five entities registered in each of Australia, New Zealand, USA, Kenya and Tanzania. 

So They Can Australia is the Global Support Office for all So They Can entities. In all instances CEO means CEO, So They Can Global Support office, Australia. Unless specified otherwise the Board refers to the relevant So They Can Board or Trustees of the entity in which you are employed or located.

Introduction

So They Can has a zero tolerance approach to child abuse and exploitation in all its forms and promotes children’s rights as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).

 

Children have a right to survival, development, protection and participation. So They Can takes its duties seriously and will aim at all times to provide the safest possible environment for the children in its care. It will take all reasonable steps to safeguard the interests, rights and well-being of those children with whom the organisation is in contact and will advocate to strengthen the protection and promote the rights of all children in developing communities. So They Can is responsible for implementing principles and procedures as set out in this document to protect children from abuse and exploitation by all Representatives who are working with or have contact with children. Adherence to this policy is a mandatory requirement for all Representatives.

 

So They Can recognizes that it is essential for all representatives of So They can in its project countries to be aware of their local child protection legislation and consequences for breaching it.  Currently, with So They Can project countries being Kenya and Tanzania such legislation includes:

  • The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
  • The Children Act in Kenya
  • The Law of the Child Act in Tanzania

 

Definitions

  • In keeping with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a child in these policies and procedures is a person under the age of 18
  • So They Can Representatives – are all individuals and institutions who act on behalf of So They Can regardless of whether or not there is a formal legal agreement between them and So They Can. This includes, but is not limited to, all trustees, members, directors, employees, contractors, consultants, advisors, volunteers, casual laborers and regular suppliers of good and services, and implementing partners irrespective of which country their role is situated.
  • Contact with children: Working on an activity or in a position that involves or may involve contact with children, either under the position description or due to the nature of the work environment.
  • Working with children: Working with children means being engaged in an activity with a child where the contact would reasonably be expected as a normal part of the activity and the contact is not incidental to the activity. Working includes volunteering or other unpaid works.
  • Criminal record check: A check of an individual’s criminal history record conducted by police or other authority responsible for conducting such checks. Individuals need to consent to a criminal record check and should be informed of the purpose for which the resulting police clearance certificate, showing the results of a criminal record check, will be used.
  • Child abuse includes:
  • Physical abuse: the use of physical force against a child that results in harm to the child. Physically abusive behaviour includes shoving, hitting, slapping, shaking, throwing, punching, kicking, biting, burning, strangling and poisoning
  • Sexual abuse: the use of a child for sexual gratification by an adult or significantly older child or adolescent. Sexually abusive behaviours can include fondling genitals; masturbation; oral sex; vaginal or anal penetration by a penis, finger or any other object; fondling breasts; voyeurism; exhibitionism; and exposing the child to, or involving the child in, pornography.
  • Emotional abuse: refers to a parent or caregiver’s inappropriate verbal or symbolic acts toward a child, or a pattern of failure over time to provide a child with adequate non-physical nurture and emotional availability. Such acts have a high probability of damaging a child’s self-esteem or social competence.
  • Neglect: the failure by a parent or caregiver to provide a child (where they are in a position to do so) with the conditions that are culturally accepted as being essential for their physical and emotional development and wellbeing.
  • Ill-treatment: disciplining or correcting a child in an unreasonable and seriously inappropriate or improper manner, making excessive and/or degrading demands of a child; hostile use of force towards a child, and/or a pattern of hostile or unreasonable and seriously inappropriate degrading comments or behavior towards a child.
  • Child exploitation: one or more of the following:
  • Committing or coercing another person to commit an act or acts of abuse against a child
  • Possessing, controlling, producing, distributing, obtaining or transmitting child exploitation material
  • Committing or coercing another person to commit an act or acts of grooming or online grooming
  • Using a minor for profit, labour, sexual gratification or some other personal or financial advantage
  • Harm: Any detrimental effect on a child’s physical, psychological or emotional wellbeing. Harm may be caused by financial, physical or emotional abuse, neglect, and/or sexual abuse or exploitation whether intended or unintended.
  • Child exploitation material: Material irrespective of its form which is classified as child abuse material or child pornography material.
  • Child abuse material: Material that depicts (expressly or implicitly) a child as a victim of torture, cruelty or physical abuse.
  • Child pornography material: Material that depicts a person, or is a representation of a person, who is, or appears to be, under 18 years of age and is engaged in, or appears to be engaged in, a sexual pose or sexual activity, or is in the presence of a person who is engaged in, or appears to be engaged in, a sexual pose or activity, and does this in a way that a reasonable person would regard as being, in all the circumstances, offensive.
  • Grooming: behaviour that makes it easier for an offender to procure a child for sexual activity. For example, an offender might build a relationship of trust with the child, and then seek to sexualise that relationship (for example by encouraging romantic feelings, or exposing the child to sexual concepts through pornography).
  • Online grooming: The act of sending an electronic message to a child, with the intention of procuring the recipient to engage in or submit to sexual activity with another person, including but not necessarily the sender; or of sending an electronic message with indecent content to a recipient who the sender believes to be a child.

 

Policy principles

Zero tolerance of child exploitation and abuse

So They Can has a zero tolerance approach to child exploitation and abuse. Child exploitation and abuse will attract criminal, civil and disciplinary sanctions. So They Can will not knowingly engage—directly or indirectly—anyone who poses a risk to children. So They Can works to minimise the risks of child exploitation and abuse associated with its functions and programs, and trains its staff and partners on their obligations under this policy.

 

Assess and manage child protection risk and impact

While it is not possible to entirely eliminate risks of child exploitation and abuse, careful child-safe recruitment and screening procedures and child-focused management can identify, mitigate, manage or reduce the risks to children that may be associated with So They Can functions and programs.

 

Sharing responsibility for child protection

To effectively manage risks to children, So They Can requires the commitment, support and cooperation of partner organisations and individuals who help to deliver programs administered by So They Can.

 

Procedural fairness

So They Can will apply procedural fairness when making decisions that affect a person’s rights or interests. So They Can’s partners are expected to adhere to this principle when responding to concerns or allegations of child exploitation and abuse.

 

Recognition of the best interests of the child

Australia, as well as Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania where So They Can’s development activities take place, are signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. So They Can is committed to upholding the rights of the child and Australia’s obligations under this convention. In all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

Responsibility under this policy

 

So They Can Management

So They Can executive staff and managers are responsible for promoting children’s rights and championing the protection of children. Management are responsible for implementation of these policies and procedures and will comply with the Code of Conduct in relation to child protection (set out below). Particular responsibilities include building child protection awareness, advocacy, rigorous recruitment and screening practices, education and training including refresher course twice a year for all Representatives in an ongoing relationship with So They Can, sponsorship controls, responding to complaints and allegations, systems and administration. Executive staff and managers are responsible for promoting child safe messages in their work including appropriate child‐safe communications on websites, brochures, recruitment materials and publications including fundraising materials. Managers at all levels have particular responsibilities to support and develop systems that maintain this environment. Management is responsible for ensuring that all Representatives entering into relationships with So They Can have read, understood and consented to compliance with this Child Protection Policy by signing a consent form (Annexure A). So They Can is responsible for providing a version of this Child Protection Policy translated into a local language in each country of operation and for ensuring that the policy is read to all illiterate Representatives in a language understood by them.

 

All Representatives

All Representatives are obliged to create and maintain an environment which prevents exploitation and all forms of abuse and exploitation of children and promotes positive staff conduct.  All Representatives are responsible for having a thorough knowledge of these policies and procedures, acting in accordance with them and complying with the staff Code of Conduct.  Where a Representative develops concerns or suspicions regarding any type of child abuse and exploitation by a fellow worker, whether in the same organisation or not, s/he must report such concerns via the prescribed So They Can reporting mechanisms.

Procedures

  1. Development programs

Children in developing countries are extremely vulnerable to various forms of abuse and exploitation ‐ particularly neglect, physical and emotional abuse. So They Can's program work in developing countries therefore aims to promote child protection and protection of children’s rights as a component of all program activity. Programs will aim to work directly and indirectly to reduce the risks children face, both from outside and within the family, and these activities will be assessed in the monitoring and evaluation process. Representatives are to receive ongoing training and to be regularly updated on issues relating to child protection.

 

When working with any partners So They Can will ensure that child protection is a fundamental core principle of the partner’s work. So They Can will ensure that all partners have child policies in accordance with the United Nations declaration of human rights and that these are adhered to and monitored. So They Can will ensure any partnership agreement will include Child Protection clauses.

 

  1. Initial Risk Assessment

So They Can and its partners will conduct an initial child protection risk assessment in all locations where projects are to be implemented in order to identify key risk factors and put in place plans to mitigate these as far as possible.

                   

This policy provides a risk-based approach to the management of child protection in So They Can programs, activities and partnerships.

  • If the So They Can program, activity or a partnership is determined to be ‘working with children’, then all minimum child protection standards as specified by the So They Can Child Protection Policy must be applied.
  • If the So They Can program, activity or a partnership is determined to be ‘contact with children’ or impacts children then an assessment of child protection risk is required and, depending on the level of risk identified, the appropriate minimum child protection standards to manage the risk must be applied.

 

  1. Child protection Code of Conduct

Introduction

All Representatives will conduct themselves in a manner that promotes children’s rights and protects children from abuse and exploitation.

 

Children are at risk from abuse and exploitation from a variety of sources. It is the responsibility of all Representatives to minimise this risk by setting a positive example, identifying and managing potential risks and responding to allegations of abuse and exploitation. The child protection Code of Conduct describes the basic expectations of Representatives regarding their contact and dealings with children.

 

A breach of the Code of Conduct or of So They Can’s child protection policy are grounds for disciplinary action, may lead to dismissal from employment or service, and may result in legal proceedings. A breach of any of the Principles in this policy is regarded as gross misconduct and will result in dismissal or termination of service.

 

3.2.         Legal obligations               

So They Can requires that all Representatives comply with all relevant legislation (including child protection legislation).

 

  1. Recruitment

 

  • Interview, selection process and appointment
  • So They Can’s commitment to the protection of children is evidenced through the strict guidelines relating to the child-safe recruitment and screening of Representatives, particularly those who will be in direct contact with By promoting child-safe recruitment and screening procedures So They Can mitigates the risk of employing or engaging a person who exploits or abuses children and attract the best people to work with children.
  • So They Can has clear job descriptions for all jobs that include a child-safe message and expectations under the organisation’s child protection policy and code of conduct. The selection criteria within the job description outline the relevant experience needed if the job involves working with children and the job description informs candidates of the child-safe recruitment screening practices that will apply to positions that require contact with children and working with children.
  • So They Can has developed an appropriate application form for all jobs that includes a child-safe message, child protection policy and code of conduct when sending out application forms to candidates. The application form includes a couple of child-safe interview questions and informs the applicants that:
  • criminal record checks will be undertaken for successful applicants
  • the criminal record checks cover all countries of citizenship and for each country in which the individual has lived for 12 months or longer over the past five years (or more)
  • the requirement for criminal record checks allows people to self-select out of the process.
  • The interviewing process for jobs within So They Can will:
  • Include child-safe interview questions for all jobs working with children (including existing staff within the organisation who are applying internally, as well as staff and consultants recommended by other organisations).
  • Always try to have more than one person conduct interviews.
  • Consider including a young person on the interview panel for roles working directly with children.
  • Discuss any concerns raised during the interview with others on the panel and follow up with referees.
  • Avoid phone and Skype interviews for roles involving direct and ongoing work with children. A face-to-face interview provides a better opportunity to:
    • get to know someone‘s nature
    • pick up on any red flags or concerns
    • observe their body language, eye contact, interaction with the interviewers, and any hesitations or signs of being uncomfortable with the questions asked.
  • Send your child protection policy and code of conduct to candidates before the interview.
  • Ask questions that provide you with an insight into a person’s attitudes towards children, their values, beliefs and motivations (behaviour-based questions).
  • Ask scenario-based questions to look at past behaviours and responses to certain situations (see below for more details).
  • All staff recruited both in country or from overseas who will be working on projects in country must also provide at least three references or referees to be checked by the
  • Referees must be contacted directly and their identity and relationship with the candidate
  • All Representatives are to be informed of So They Can Child Protection Policy and procedures during the induction They must sign an acknowledgement that they have read the document and will comply with its requirements.
  • Continual monitoring of the preferred candidate(s) should continue throughout the orientation and probationary

 

  • Criminal Record Check
  • A Criminal Record Check conducted by the Australian Federal Police will be undertaken for all Representatives of Australian citizenship and for other nationals who are to be employed in Australia where their employment position will require them to be in contact with or working with children.
  • A Criminal Record Check conducted by the New Zealand Police will be undertaken for all Representatives of New Zealand citizenship and for other nationals who are to be employed in New Zealand where their employment position will require them to be in contact or working with children.
  • A Criminal Record Check conducted by the Criminal Justice Information Services Division of the FBI for all Representatives of the United States citizenship and for other nationals who are to be employed in the USA where their employment position will require them to be in contact or working with children.
  • In So They Can program countries a criminal record check or other statutory screening mechanism – if available – will be conducted for all Representatives being employed or contracted regardless of their If the individual has been living overseas and their So They Can role means they will be working with children in program countries, a criminal record check must be conducted for each country in which the individual has lived for 12 months or longer over the last five years, and for the individual’s country of citizenship.
  • These checks will be conducted before the Representative’s engagement by So They Can or commencement of the relationship, with follow up checks conducted every 2 years for those who are working with So They Can will never knowingly employ or contract anyone convicted of a child related offence or permit a person to work with children if they pose an unacceptable risk to children.
  • The Project Supervisors are responsible for arranging the criminal background checks and if necessary the follows ups every 2 years and maintaining the Criminal Background Checks
  • A summary of So They Can’s Child Protection screening requirements can be found in the matrix attached to this document (refer Annexure F).

 

  1. Training and Development

As part of the induction process all Representatives will be given a copy of So They Can’s Child Protection Policy and Code of Conduct and be asked to read it and sign the declaration that they understand and agree to be bound by it.

 

Project Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that Representatives under their jurisdiction understand the content of the Child Protection Policy and Procedures document and are aware of local child protection legislation and consequences for breaching it. This may involve translation and one on one explanation as required. Country Directors are responsible for ensuring their Project Supervisors are conducting training on the Child Protection Policy and Code of Conduct.

 

Additional and job‐specific on going child protection training will be arranged by the Project

Supervisors for those Representatives in contact or working with children. The Project Supervisor is to ensure that this training occurs and is ongoing. The Project Supervisor shall record the training provided to each Representative in the Criminal Record Checks Register.

 

  1. Marketing and communications

So They Can will undertake all reasonable precautions to protect paper and electronic information about children in its care. Children’s records are kept in a secure location and child information is restricted to So They Can individuals who require access to the information as part of their responsibilities.

 

No photographic, electronic or printed material containing images or information relating to children that could put the child at risk of identification are made available through any form of communication media without strict guidelines concerning their use.

 

All images of children that are used in promotional or awareness materials are never accompanied by explicit information regarding the child’s place of residence. Any text accompanying an image that in any way identifies the child will be pixelated or removed unless consented to by the CEO.

 

Any independent photographer visiting So They Can’s project, where it works with or involves contact with children will be in the first instance required to read So They Can Child Protection Policy and Code of Conduct and commit to compliance by signing such declaration.

 

All communications involving children use pictures and text that are decent and respectful. In all communications children are adequately clothed in accordance with local customs and any poses that are potentially sexually suggestive are avoided.

 

So They Can has developed a set of Guidelines on Ethical Photography (Annexure D) to ensure that we use all images, videos and printed messages in communications in a way that portrays people in a manner that respects their rights, safety, dignity, values, history, religion, language and culture.

 

  1. Allegation reporting and management

The development, implementation and continual monitoring of an effective allegation and incident management system is essential to So They Can’s efforts to protect children from all forms of abuse and exploitation and to ensure due process for any Representatives involved in an allegation.

 

The potential for Representatives to seek access to children for abusive purposes is acknowledged by So They Can. This threat is treated with the utmost importance and seriousness and So They Can is committed to doing all it possibly can to prevent the abuse and exploitation of children and to hold accountable those who harm children.

 

  • Obligation to report suspected incidents of abuse and exploitation

 

Grounds for concern which must be reported using the Child Protection Incident Notification form (Annexure E) include, but are not limited to:

  • Specific indication (any sign, illness, injury or change of behaviour which is consistent with possible abuse or exploitation) from a child that s/he is being abused or gives reason to suspect that they or another child is being abused.
  • A statement from a person who witnessed or is concerned about abuse of a child.
  • Any sign, illness, injury or behaviour which indicates possible abuse or which gives rise to concern or suspicion.
  • A symptom, injury or behaviour which does not indicate abuse but which combined with other information or evidence gives cause for concern.
  • Child-to-child abuse: A child living in a So They Can family or attending any other So They Can program (e.g. family strengthening program) abuses another child or is abused by another child.
  • Seeing or hearing about abuse in another organisation or in a community in which So They Can is working.
  • Anything that indicates a staff member or associate has abused a child or placed a child at risk of abuse or exploitation.
  • An allegation, concern or rumour that indicates a staff member or associate has breached the child protection policy of So They Can and its behaviour protocols as described in the Code of Conduct section.
  • An adult reports that s/he was abused as a child or young person while in contact with So They Can.

 

  • Reporting abuse

 

So They Can, through its child protection policy is committed to preventing abuse whenever it can and to responding quickly and appropriately when concerns about abuse arise.

 

There is a mandatory requirement to report any breaches in our child protection and code of conduct where a child may be abused or at risk of abuse. It is essential that all So They Can staff and associates understand their responsibility in reporting and responding to child protection concerns.

 

Any incident or concern regarding the safety or welfare of a child or children attending a So They Can program must be reported. Not responding to a child protection concern may mean that children are unprotected and are exposed to further abuse and exploitation. It may also result in further child victims. It is also important that the proper reporting and responding procedures are followed – further harm to the child may be caused by an inappropriate response.

 

All Representatives are required to report immediately to their manager or supervisor if they have reasonable suspicion of child abuse occurring or being likely to occur, including the inappropriate use of printed materials. Representatives may raise their concerns verbally, in writing or through an anonymous online platform Whispli available to all Representatives. If a person knowingly chooses not to report an incident, then they will be subject to disciplinary action including possible termination of employment, contract or service.

 

  • Disciplinary actions

 

Immediate action is required once an allegation or concern has been reported to ensure that the child’s or children’s health and safety needs are met.

 

Max. 24 hours after the allegation or concern was reported, the team participating in the case management process has to establish the exact nature of the concern.  The Country Supervisor and/or a designated manager decides on next steps. Initial steps of an appropriate response must be taken max. 48 hours after the allegation or concern was reported based on the status of the case as determined in the referral meeting.

 

Various options are at the disposal of So They Can in dealing with the outcome of child abuse which include but not limited to:

  • Employees – disciplinary action / dismissal
  • Partners – termination of partnership
  • Contractors – termination of contract
  • Referring case to national authorities

 

  • Reporting procedure

All incidents or suspicions of child abuse and exploitation, including the inappropriate use of printed materials (past or present) by a Representative must be reported immediately to the person making the allegations’ immediate manager using the Child Protection Incident Notification form (Annexure E). If this is not appropriate then the matter must be reported immediately to their senior manager with the option to directly report to the CEO. The person making the allegation is required as soon as possible (usually within 24 hours) to document the allegation, including the time, place and any witnesses.

 

If it is a child making the allegations they will be directed to and supported by the relevant Child Support Officer and all documentation completed in accordance with the complaints policy and requirements contained within this policy. The Child Support Officer shall complete all documentation and immediately present the allegation to the local Project Supervisor and CEO. The Child Support Officer will seek professional assistance or the child as required. All children need to be made aware through their Child Support Officers of the availability of this avenue for complaints and allegations against staff and Representatives of So They Can, their peers and members of the wider community.

 

If the allegation is in relation to the person making the allegation’s manager then the matter must immediately be reported to the CEO.  If the allegation is in relation to the CEO then the matter must immediately be reported to the Chair of the So They Can Board. If the allegation is in respect of the Chair of the So They Can Board then it must be reported to two other Directors of So They Can.

 

At all times So They Can will act in the best interests of the child. This may involve suspension or transfer to another role of the alleged perpetrator while an investigation takes place. Any Representative who has been stood down will be entitled to a fair and just process including appropriate information about the investigation process. No assumptions are to be made regarding guilt or innocence, with the investigation process remaining confidential until a decision has been reached by management. Regardless of the decision made, the process must be documented and filed, with all printed and electronic matter being kept in a secure and confidential place at all times.

 

The manager or if necessary the CEO is responsible for instituting appropriate action including:

  • taking immediate steps to secure the safety and well‐being of the child or children concerned;
  • making a report to local statutory authorities where appropriate;
  • complying with relevant statutes and protocols and cooperating with local authorities;
  • determining whether referral of information to the Australian Federal Police, New Zealand Police, the Criminal Justice Information Services Division of the FBI or other international authorities is appropriate and possible; and
  • conducting or arranging an internal investigation to determine if the So They Can Child Protection Policy has been

 

Following the investigation process the CEO will conclude one of the following:

  • There are possible grounds for criminal or statutory proceedings and the So They Can Child Protection Policy and procedures have been In this case the matter will be referred to appropriate authorities and disciplinary action including consideration of termination of employment or contract will ensue;
  • There is no basis for referral to criminal or statutory proceedings however the staff person has breached the So They Can Child Protection Disciplinary action will be conducted including possible termination of employment or contract; or
  • There is no basis found for the allegation in which case the person will resume normal If it is found that the allegation was vexatious, appropriate action in relation to the person making the allegation will be taken.

 

If the matter becomes part of a criminal investigation, So They Can will cooperate fully with the relevant authorities.

                                                                 

  • Confidentiality

All incidents and alleged incidents of child abuse, harm and exploitation are handled with extreme sensitivity and confidentiality. So They Can understands, however, that in some cases reporting of incidents and allegations may occur even if the child or party concerned is reluctant to give their consent – at all times So They Can will work in the best interest of the child. Concerns that arise are always directed through the above formal procedure.

 

All documentation of any allegations made, either electronic or paper, are to be kept in a secure place at all times.

 

Related documents

  • So They Can Policy and Manual Register
  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Optional Protocol to The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

Commonwealth Criminal code act 1995