It is your organisation’s duty to protect the safety of its youngest members. To achieve this, you need to ensure that your environment is fully secure by implementing a child protection policy. This should reduce and help to prevent adult misconduct while also protecting your staff and volunteers from unsubstantiated accusations.
Selecting Employees and Volunteers
Employees who may potentially work with children at your facility should undergo the following screening process:
- Implement a Waiting Period—Volunteers wishing to work with children should be members of your organisation for a determined minimum period of time (six months, one year, etc), so the individual can be evaluated by current staff members.
- Application for Employment—Have all potential employees and volunteers fill in applications requiring information about their previous experience working with children, previous organisational affiliations, and references.
- Interviews—Conduct in-person interviews to discuss open positions and the applicant’s background.
- Check References—Before hiring anyone, check at least three references for each applicant, preferably those from organisations where the applicant worked with children.
- Conduct Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Checks—Require a DBS check for all eligible applicants and volunteers who will engage in the following activities: involvement with day care and/or schooling, chaperoning overnight activities with children, counselling minors, involvement in youth mentoring programmes, and potential for sporadic encounters with minors—such as driving youth groups to activities off-site.
Applicants should be dismissed from the selection process if the following offences are evident:
- Illegal substance use
If an applicant does not reveal an offence in the application for employment, he or she should also be dismissed from the application process.
Guidelines for Youth Workers
Your organisation may want to hire youth employees, if this is the case it will need to be reflected in the organisations child protection policy. Consider the following policies when hiring workers under age 18:
- Workers must be of legal working age.
- Workers should be screened the same way as older volunteers and employees.
- Workers must be supervised by an adult employee at all times.
Guidelines for Parents
With regard to all activities involving children, require that a parent or guardian checks the child in and out of the activity by signing a check-in log.
Employees should escort children to the lavatories in groups. Before allowing children to enter the lavatory, the employee should check to make sure it is empty. Once the children go inside, the employee should wait in the hallway for the children to congregate again. If a child requests assistance from an employee while in the lavatory, the employee should prop the lavatory door open and then leave the stall open while providing assistance to the child.
Consider requesting that parents take their children to the lavatory before classes, programmes and activities.
If members of your staff will be counselling young children, your facility should institute guidelines in your child protection policy for these employees as well. These precautions will safeguard against negligent counselling, malpractice, abuse of authority, breach of confidentiality or fiduciary duty, sexual battery and unnecessary inappropriate influence. Consider these guidelines when creating your child protection policy:
- Create a counselling contract with the employee outlining the scope of the counselling sessions (length and duration), confidentiality issues and dispute resolution protocol.
- Limit counselling to proper context. For those children who wish to discuss abuse, mental health issues and/or addiction, request that they see a professional counsellor outside of your organisation.
- Consider only allowing male counselors to work with males and vice versa.
- Limit the time, duration and number of sessions allowed for counselling for each individual.
- Hold counselling sessions in highly visible areas of the facility while keeping confidentiality in mind. Consider installing a video camera in the counselling room with the audio capabilities turned off.
- Maintain confidentiality in all counselling sessions unless employees learn of illegal activity. In that event, the employee should consult your organisation’s legal representation for further guidance.
- Warn employees that the following activities are strictly forbidden:
- Personal conversations and questions with the counselee of an extremely intimate nature.
- Physical contact and greetings that go beyond handshakes.
- Fantasising about an inappropriate relationship with the counselee.
- Seeing counselees outside of the counselling sessions, such as giving them a ride home.
Responding to Allegations of Child Abuse
For the purposes of establishing a policy at your organisation, consider the following acts constituting child abuse:
- Physical abuse that is not accidental (beating, burning, biting, etc).
- Emotional abuse in which a child is not nurtured or made to feel secure, such as extreme criticism, teasing, etc.
- Sexual conduct between an adult and a child (or between one child and another child that is at least four years older). Conduct may include pornography, incest, fondling, exhibitionism and intercourse.
- Depriving a child of essential survival needs, such as food, water, shelter and adequate medical care.
In the event that one or more of the abuses described above have occurred at your organisation, consider the following actions:
- Contact the child’s parent or guardian.
- Place the accused employee on leave immediately until an investigation is complete.
- Contact your insurance company and fill in an incident report.
- Comply with laws regarding abuse reporting to police.
- Cooperate with the authorities during their investigation.
- Contact your organisation’s legal representation for guidance on how to address the media.
- Terminate the employee if he or she is found guilty of the abuse.
Child Protection Policy
By establishing policies to ensure the safety of your young members, your organisation is taking the necessary precautions to thwart inappropriate and illegal behaviour. For more information on keeping youths safe and for insurance solutions to protect your organisation, contact ThirdSectorProtect today on 0800 877 8277.
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- Attacking From The Inside: How to prevent fraud within your charity.