How safe is your organisation for children? Read five questions by ChildSafe you should ask to help you get clearer on the level of child safety in your church community
ChildSafe Australia is a not-for-profit company that was set up specifically to help organisations improve their child safe practices. As part of its service the company offers a free downloadable resource on its website that asks five questions about child safety.
While this resource is designed for parents, it could also be used by organisations that work with children as a guide regarding the safety of kids in their care.
The questions are:
- Are your staff and volunteers screened and trained in child safety?
- What is your child safe policy and code of conduct?
- How do you involve children in decision-making regarding their safety?
- Where and how do you store our data?
- How do kids make a complaint, and what is your process for responding?
These are very pertinent questions and we will briefly go through each one in turn and offer links for further reading.
1. Staff and volunteer screening and training
Anyone in your organisation involved with children should be thoroughly screened before starting any work, whether in a paid capacity or not. They should also be trained in child safety within your organisation.
Articles for further reading:
Working-With-Children (WWC) checks – outlining the importance of background screening of staff and volunteers.
The ten National Principles for child safety – includes suggestions on how to implement them.
2. Developing a child safe policy and code of conduct
These documents should set out your commitment to child safety and the expected behaviour of staff and volunteers who work with kids. ChildSafe is also urging organisations to clearly display their commitment to child safety on their websites, in order to reassure parents and also to deter predators.
Article for further reading:
Child Safe Standards – offering suggestions and tips on developing organisational child safety policies and codes of conduct.
3. Including children in decision-making
Involving children in decisions regarding their wellbeing respects the rights of children to have a say in things that affect them. It also gives them more confidence to speak up when they feel unsafe.
Resource for more information:
CCYP resource on the Empowerment and Participation of Children.
4. Data storage
Parents need to know that the data you collect (including any photos) is stored in secure facilities and that it won’t be shared or breached.
Article for further reading:
Privacy Law Reform in Australia – including how to implement it in your organisation.
5. Complaints from kids and processes for responding
Children need to know how to make a complaint if they feel unsafe, and you should have a clear process in place for how to respond.
New program for the safety of kids in sport
ChildSafe has also created a new program called ChildSafe Sport. This was developed in response to many concerned sporting clubs (and some parents) that felt they were not up to speed with legal and moral child safety practices.
It also represents a response to the child abuse Royal Commission’s findings regarding sporting clubs in Australia, based on the testimonies of over 400 survivors.
As well as the Royal Commission’s findings, in October this year ABC Four Corners screened a program called ‘End Game’. This program highlighted the sexual abuse of young athletes in the sporting arena. Survivors spoke about the power wielded by some sporting coaches and the cover-ups that occurred, along with some attempts to minimise victim compensation.
In response to the above, ChildSafe is urging organisations involved in children’s sports to be very proactive in reducing the risk of harm to children. Doing WWC checks and personally knowing your volunteers is no longer enough. This means clubs and other organisations need to plan for worst-case scenarios regarding child safety.
Some areas and factors to consider include:
- The physical environment – in what ways could physical spaces (e.g. clubroom and ovals) present a risk of harm to children?
- The people – could any of the people in your organisation present a threat to the children?
- The online environment – how safe is your website? Could it in any way provide access to information about children on your database? This deserves particular attention in light of the increase of online grooming of children during the pandemic.
The more proactive you can be in determining, assessing, and managing the risks to children in your organisation, the more you will reduce opportunities for predatory behaviour.
Keeping your organisation child safe
In any case, whether you are involved with children through a sporting club or another kind of activity, you should do everything you can to reduce the risk of harm.
ChildSafe Australia offers a range of resources to help faith-based and other organisations manage child safety. This includes clear guidance on legislation and online programs customised to the organisation’s needs.
Tags: children, childsafe