No One to Turn To found that children as young as six are suffering sexual abuse at the hands of aid workers and called for more effective complaints mechanisms (Third Sector Online, 27 May).
Having an effective child protection policy can help you to prevent abuse and deal with complaints more swiftly and effectively. Simply put, a child protection policy helps create a child-safe organisation. It is designed to protect children (from abuse and exploitation by staff), staff (by providing guidance and laying out a just process for handling allegations) and the organisation (from damage to its reputation).
Ultimately, the effectiveness of the child protection policy will depend on the process by which it was developed. Simply ‘borrowing’ another organisation’s child protection policy will fail. Here are some basic tips based on the experiences of ChildHope and our local partners.
- Commit adequate resources There is no quick and easy solution. Developing effective child protection policies and procedures often takes up to 12 months of consultation.
- Draw on the experience of others Recognised toolkits are available from the Keeping Children Safe Coalition, ChildHope and others.
- Explain your approach If you do not prepare the ground and lay the foundations for a child protection policy, it will collapse. Before developing a policy, ensure that staff and children understand child protection, child abuse and the importance of child protection policies. Then check that the necessary conditions are in place, namely a commitment to a rights-based approach, consultation, ownership, confidentiality, transparency and sensitivity.
- Involve staff and children Meaningful participation of children and staff will help build trust, ensure the policy is relevant, and build their commitment to it. A culture of participation can also empower children to report incidents of abuse and hold adults to account.
The policy and practice
A sound child protection policy will address recruitment, education and training, management structures, behaviour protocols, communication guidelines, reporting and reacting to suspected abuse, and the ramifications of misconduct. Once you have developed a policy, ensure adequate resources are committed to disseminating it, implementing it, monitoring it and addressing obstacles. Learn from your experiences, document your learning and revise your policy and practice as necessary.
Until you reach this point...
While you are developing a child protection policy, establish some basic interim policies and procedures based on a good practice model. For instance: establish behaviour guidelines; tighten up recruitment (following up references, conducting CRB checks, adhering to probationary periods, involving children in the process); get children to nominate child protection focal points to whom they are comfortable reporting incidents; and tighten up performance management.