Child Safeguarding Policy

Commitment

Mary MacKillop Today is committed to the safety and wellbeing of all children. We support the rights of children as stated in the United Nationals Convention of the Rights of the Child and we will act to uphold these rights. We are committed to demonstrating effective leadership in the promotion and implementation of this policy to ensure the safeguarding of all children.

Definitions

Safeguarding:

The action that is taken to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm. This encompasses protecting children from abuse and maltreatment, preventing harm to children's health or development, and ensuring children grow up with the provision of safe and effective care that enables them to have optimum life chances and enter adulthood successfully.

Duty of care:

A common law concept that refers to the responsibility of the organisation to provide children with an adequate level of protection against harm. It is the duty of the organisation to protect children from all reasonably foreseeable risks of injury.

Child and young person:

Regarded to be any person under the age of 18 years, unless a nation’s laws recognise adulthood earlier.

Child abuse:

Includes physical, sexual, emotional, neglect, bullying, child labour and domestic violence. Abuse happens to male and female children of all ages, ethnicity and social backgrounds, abilities, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and political persuasion. In some cases, professionals and other adults working with children in a position of trust also abuse children.

Physical abuse:

Occurs when a person purposefully injures or threatens to injure a child or young person. This may take the form of slapping, punching, shaking, kicking, burning, shoving or grabbing. The injury may take the form of bruises, cuts, burns or fractures.

Emotional abuse:

This occurs when a child is repeatedly rejected or frightened by threats. This may involve name-calling, being put down or continual coldness from parent or caregiver, to the extent that it affects the child’s physical and emotional growth.

Neglect:

The persistent failure or the deliberate denial to provide the child with clean water, food, shelter, sanitation or supervision or care to the extent that the child’s health and development are placed at risk.

Sexual abuse:

Occurs when a child or young person is used by an older or bigger child, adolescent or adult for his or her own sexual stimulation or gratification - regardless of the age of majority or age of consent locally. These can be contact or non-contact acts, including threats and exposure to pornography.

Child-Sex Tourism:

ECPAT International defines child-sex tourism as: ‘...the commercial sexual exploitation of children by men or women who travel from one place to another, usually from a richer country to one that is less developed, and there engage in sexual acts with children, defined as anyone aged under 18 years of age.’ (ECPAT International, 2006).

Bullying:

The inappropriate use of power by an individual or group, with an intent to injure either physically or emotionally. It is usually deliberate and repetitive. The bullying may be physical or psychological (verbal and non-verbal).

Physical Bullying:

Includes pushing, hitting, punching, kicking or any other action causing hurt or injury.

Verbal bullying:

Includes insults, taunts, threats and ridicules.

Psychological bullying:

Includes physical intimidation and ostracism

Domestic Violence:

Occurs when children and young people witness or experience the chronic domination, coercion, intimidation and victimisation of one person by another by physical, sexual or emotional means within intimate relationships (adapted from the Australian Medical Association definition).

Guiding Principles

Mary MacKillop Today believes that all children should be equally protected and assisted regardless of their gender, nationality, religious or political beliefs. Where possible children in our programs should be given opportunities to express their views on matters affecting them.

Mary MacKillop Today believes that any form of behaviour that contradicts the standards of behavior outlined in the Code of Conduct is unacceptable and recognises its duty of care to take reasonable steps to ensure children are safe from harm. Adherence to this policy is mandatory for all staff and others who are engaged in Mary MacKillop Today work.

Context

Behaviour that contradicts the standards of behaviour outlined in the Code of Conduct is a global problem that affects both boys and girls. It is deeply rooted in cultural, economic and social practices. Children are abused physically, sexually, emotionally and through neglect. Children living in poverty are more at risk of child abuse and exploitation.

  • According to the World Health Organisation (2001) forty million children below the age of 15 suffer from abuse and neglect and require social and health care.
  • An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked every year. (Every Child Counts, New Estimates on Child Labour, International Labour Organisation April 2002; UNICEF 2007)
  • 1 million children enter the commercial child sex trade every year (1995 estimate). The numbers are likely to be higher now. (Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, United Nations A/50/456, Sept 1995)
  • 250 million children are involved in child labour, more than 180 million are working in hazardous situation or conditions (A Future without Child Labour, International Labour Organisation, 2002)
  • 1 in 4 females and 1 in 7 girls will experience some form of sexual abuse in their childhood.

While most child abuse occurs within families and communities, children also experience abuse and exploitation in organisations which provide them with support and services. Experience has found that physical, emotional abuse and neglect in child-focused organisations and institutions are less systematic and usually unplanned. It is usually the result of poor conditions, bad work practices andnegligent management.

However, child sexual abuse in organisations is often planned and premeditated. Child sex offenders target organisations working with children in order to gain access to victims. They will seek work in organisations that provide opportunities to make contact with children and an environment where their abuse may go undetected. Child sex offenders will be attracted to organisations with inadequate recruitment practices and supervision.

Over the last decade many Western countries have enacted tougher laws against child sex offending and many child-focused organisations have implemented tighter screening practices for the staff and volunteers. These improved Child Safeguarding measures have led to increasing numbers of child sex offenders moving overseas to seek work in developing countries and development programs. They will seek work in countries with inadequate Child Safeguarding laws and law enforcement as well as countries where children and their families are vulnerable to exploitation.

During recent responses to natural disasters and emergencies it was widely reported that people who pose a risk to children (eg convicted child sex offenders) applied for positions in programs that brought them into contact with vulnerable children. While there are examples of children being sexually abused by foreign offenders there are also numerous examples of local staff and volunteers sexually abusing children in aid and development programs.

In 2002 widespread sexual abuse and exploitation of children by aid workers was exposed by the media in West African refugee camps. It was alleged that 67 aid workers from more than 40 agencies were trading shelter, education, food and medicine for sexual favours. Most of the allegations involved male national staff who traded humanitarian commodities for sex with girls under 18. It is believed that this information had been known to the agencies for some time.

Scope of the Policy

All staff (full time, part time, international and national and also those engaged on short term contracts such as: consultancies, researchers, photographers etc) and other key groups (visitors, volunteers, board members, trustees, staff in partnership agencies, and any other individuals or groups that have contact with the organisation including suppliers both in Australia and overseas).

Child Safeguarding risk management

Mary MacKillop Today recognizes that there a number of potential risks to children in the delivery of our programs to the vulnerable and disadvantaged. In recognising these risks, Mary MacKillop Today proactively assesses and manages these risks to children in our programs (and in the communities in which we work) to reduce the risk of harm. This is achieved by examining each program and its potential impact on children.

Programs that involve direct work with children are considered a higher risk, and therefore require more stringent Child Safeguarding procedures. However, as children are part of every community in which we work, we are always mindful of potential risks.

Mary MacKillop Today commits to providing ongoing and effective leadership, communication and training to all staff, volunteers, partners, and visitors to projects regarding the contents of this policy and appropriate safeguarding measures for children, including periodic refresher trainings throughout the year.

Mary MacKillop Today has a Child Safeguarding focal point in place who should be consulted for any clarifications or concerns.

A child abuse incident reporting sheet has been developed and staff are aware of its existence.

Code of conduct of working with children

Staff members and others are responsible for maintaining a professional role with children, which means establishing and maintaining clear professional boundaries that serve to protect everyone from misunderstandings or a violation of the professional relationship.

All staff should conduct themselves in a manner consistent with their role as a Mary MacKillop Today representative and a positive role model to children. Mary MacKillop Today has developed a child safe code of conduct to protect children, staff and the organisation by providing clear behavioural guidelines and expectations.

Mary MacKillop Today’s child safe code of conduct includes:

I WILL:

  • Treat all children and young people in our program with respect.
  • Conduct myself in a manner that is consistent the values of Mary Mackillop Today.
  • Provide a welcoming, inclusive and safe environment for all children, young people, parents, staff and volunteers.
  • Respect cultural differences.
  • Use appropriate language and communication with children at all times.
  • Encourage open communication between all children, young people, parents, staff and volunteers and have children and young people participate in the decisions that affect them.
  • Report any concerns of behaviour that contradicts the standards of behaviour outlined in the Code of Conduct
  • Be transparent in my actions and whereabouts.
  • Take responsibility for ensuring I am accountable and do not place myself in positions where there is a risk of allegations being made.
  • Self-assess my behaviours, actions, language and relationships with children.
  • Speak up when I observe concerning behaviours of colleagues.
  • Ban all alcohol or drug use.
  • Follow the reporting processes below to report and/or respond to concerns in relation to child safeguarding.

I WILL NOT:

  • Engage in behaviour that is intended to shame, humiliate, belittle or degrade children.
  • Use inappropriate, offensive or discriminatory language when speaking with a child or young person.
  • Do things of a personal nature that a child can do for him/herself, such as assistance with toileting or changing clothes.
  • Take children to their own home/hotel or sleep in the same room or bed as a child.
  • Smack, hit or physically assault children.
  • Develop sexual relationships with children or relationships with children that may be deemed exploitative or abusive.
  • Behave provocatively or inappropriately with a child.
  • Condone or participate in, behaviour of children that is illegal, unsafe or abusive.
  • Act in a way that shows unfair and differential treatment of children.
  • Photograph or video a child without the consent of the child and his/her parents or guardians.
  • Hold, kiss, cuddle or touch a child in an inappropriate, unnecessary or culturally insensitive way.
  • Seek to make contact and spend time with any child or young person outside the program times.
  • Use Mary MacKillop Today’s computers, mobile phones, video and digital cameras inappropriately, nor use them for the purpose of exploiting or harassing children.
  • Hire minors as domestic labour.
  • Provide gifts to children.
Use of children's images

Mary MacKillop Today will at all times portray children in a respectful, appropriate and consensual way. Our guidelines on the use of images children’s images, in line with the ACFID Code of Conduct Clause 4.2, are:

  • A child should always be portrayed in a dignified and respectful manner and not in a vulnerable or submissive manner.
  • Children should be adequately clothed and not in poses that could be seen as sexually suggestive.
  • A child and its family must always be asked for consent when using their images. When asking for consent to use the image, details should be given as to how and where this image will be used.
  • There should be no identifying information of the child used in the publication of images with their location.
  • Children should be portrayed as part of their community.
  • Local cultural traditions should be assessed regarding restrictions for reproducing personal images.
  • Images should be an honest representation of the context and the facts.
  • When sending images electronically, file labels should not reveal identifying information.
  • All photographers will be screened for their suitability, including police checks where appropriate.
Employment of staff and volunteers

Mary MacKillop Today is committed to child safe recruitment, selection and screening practices. These practices aim to recruit the safest and most suitable people to work in our programs and are extended to the appointment of suppliers and contractors, as well as all partner staff working directly on Mary MacKillop Today project activities.

The Child Safeguarding Policy and related procedures are communicated to and signed by all Directors, staff, volunteers, consultants and others who act as representatives of the organisation as part of their induction.

For a comprehensive list of Mary MacKillop Today’s child safe recruitment and staffing practices, please refer to the Recruitment Policy (5.6) or see the Child Safe Recruitment Checklist in related documents below.

Child abuse reporting processes

Mary MacKillop Today considers the abuse and exploitation of children to be completely unacceptable. We will take all reports of child safeguarding concerns seriously and act on these reports immediately.

It is mandatory for all Mary MacKillop Today staff and others to report concerns or allegations related to the  safety of a child. These concerns may relate to a child or a staff member involved in the organisation or a concern about a child or person/s outside of the organisation’s programs. If you do have a concern you should immediately follow Mary MacKillop Today’s child safeguarding reporting procedures.

Who to report to?

In Australia:

Reports should be made to the CEO or Child Safeguarding Focal Point.

Reporting in Australia is a clearer process compared to responding to incidents that occur overseas. In all Australian states and territories, sexual and physical abuse of children are crimes. The age of consent in most Australian states and territories is 16. However it is important to check in each jurisdiction as the age limit may be different.

Additionally, in some jurisdictions it is a criminal offence for persons who are in positions of power and trust (e.g. teacher, parent, carer) to engage in sexual activity with children under the age of 18. It is important to research the laws and Child Safeguarding provisions in each Australian state and territory and ensure that these details are included in the Child Safeguarding policy.

Reporting can either be made to the local state police or the state Child Safeguarding authorities. If there is an allegation or suspicion of child sexual abuse by a staff member or volunteer in the organization, these matters will be reported to the state police. In most Australian states there are specialised units dealing with child sexual crimes. If there are concerns that a child is being sexually abused by someone external to the organization, Mary MacKillop Today will contact the state police and/or Child Safeguarding authorities.

Concerns about the welfare of the child in relation to neglect and/or emotional abuse will be reported to the Child Safeguarding authorities in each state or territory. Concerns about people engaging in child sex tourism, child sex trafficking and child pornography should be reported to the Australian Federal Police (Transnational Sexual Crimes Squad).

Overseas:

Reports should be made to the line manager or Country Director. If this is not possible reports can be made directly to the Australian based CEO or Child Safeguarding Focal Point.

An initial assessment will be made based on the quality and reliability of the information and a decision will be made (in consultation with the CEO) on what steps to take. This will be based on whether the allegation constitutes a criminal offence in the country, or whether it is a breach of the Mary MacKillop Today code of conduct and will be dealt with as a disciplinary matter.

The first step will be to gather all the relevant information and address any health and protection needs of the child. The matter may be directly referred to the local police and or authorities if the allegations are considered to be criminal offences. If the incident has occurred outside of the program the matter will be referred to an external body or agency dealing with Child Safeguarding matters in the country.

When to report?

  • Concerns should be raised immediately.

How should it be reported?

  • Verbally and by completing the Mary MacKillop Today child safeguarding incident reporting sheet.

Mary MacKillop Today will treat all concerns raised seriously and ensure that all parties will be treated fairly, and the principles of natural justice will be a prime consideration. All reports will be handled professionally, confidentially and expediently.

All reports made in good faith will be viewed as being made in the best interests of the child regardless of the outcomes of any investigation. Mary MacKillop Today will ensure that the interests of anyone reporting behaviour that contradicts the standards in the Code of Conduct in good faith are protected. Any employee who intentionally makes false and malicious allegations, will face disciplinary action.

The rights and welfare of the child is of prime importance. Every effort must be made to protect the rights and safety of the child throughout the investigation.

Children and community members with whom Mary MacKillop Today works will be provided with information about how to report any Child Safeguarding concerns about Mary MacKillop Today staff members and others.

Responding to disclosure by a child.

  • Specific guidelines for complaints process relating to the safeguarding of children can be found in the Complaints Handling section of this Policy Manual

How to report child safeguarding concerns

  1. All Mary MacKillop Today staff and others, including people in the community and partner organisations should report child safeguarding concerns
  2. When making a report, they should report the following:
    • Any disclosure or allegation from a child/community member or staff regarding the safety, abuse or exploitation of a child.
    • Any observation or concerning behaviour exhibited by a Mary MacKillop Today staff, volunteer or other relevant stakeholder that breaches the Mary MacKillop Today code of conduct for working with children.
    • Inappropriate use of the organisation’s photographic equipment or computers including evidence of child pornography.
    • Staff engaging in suspicious behaviour that could be associated with sexual exploitation or trafficking.
  3. In Australia - Reports should be made to the CEO or Child Safeguarding Focal Point.
  4. Overseas - Reports should be made to the line manager, Country Director or Mary MacKillop Today point of contact (for partner organisations). If this is not possible reports can be made directly to the Australian based CEO or Child Safeguarding Focal Point.

How to act on child abuse report

  • The CEO in consultation with the Country Director or other relevant staff will discuss the allegations and then decide upon the next step.
  • This will involve either interviewing the person/persons who made the allegations or other witnesses to gather more information with which to make a decision;
    • Report to local police and or Child Safeguarding authority
    • Report made to the Australian Federal Police
    • Concern handled internally if it is not a criminal matter
    • No further action taken

The CEO will immediately inform the Chair of the Mary MacKillop Today Board that an allegation has been made and continue to inform of steps taken.

Involving Children & Young People
  • Mary MacKillop Today is committed to child and youth participation. We will do this by providing opportunities for children and young people be heard and incorporate their views into our policies and programs.
  • Children will be asked for their feedback about staff and services.
  • They will be consulted in the development and review of the CPP and will be asked to contribute to the child safe code of conduct in regards to what they consider to be appropriate and inappropriate behaviours.
  • Children will also be informed about Mary MacKillop Today reporting process and who to contact if they are at risk, have been abused or are concerned about another child.
Educating the organisation on child abuse and Child Safeguarding Policy
  • Mary MacKillop Today is committed to educating staff and others in the CPP, in how to reduce risks and create child safe environments.
  • We will promote child safe practices which keep children safe in the organisation and in their own community and provide information about Child Safeguarding to the children and communities in which we work. This information will include reporting if they have concerns about a Mary MacKillop Today member of staff or another representative in the organisation