Creating a culture of child protection means creating an environment where children feel safe from any harm, abuse, or maltreatment.
You can create a culture of child protection by developing policies and procedures, a mission statement, and an intention that is made clear to everyone interacting with the children.
In this video, learn how to use our holistic four-square process to create a culture of child protection focused on awareness, prevention, reporting, and responding.
If you’d like to work with us on developing your very own child protection policy, contact Director of Global Programs Niyoshi Mehta at Niyoshi@MiracleFoundation.org.
I want to talk about creating a culture of child protection inside the children’s homes where you work.
Creating a culture of child protection means creating an environment inside the institution where the child feels safe from any form of harm, from any kind of abuse or maltreatment—whether that’s intentional or unintentional.
It also means inside the home creating an environment where the staff and everyone who works there is well-trained and well-versed in what this means. And they’re held accountable for keeping this environment a safe place for kids.
To do this—to create a culture of child protection—one needs to have policies and procedures, a mission statement, an intention that’s made clear to everyone that is associated with the children’s home: The Board of Directors, the In-Charge, the people who work there, the volunteers who come there. It has to be a set of standards and guidelines and educational components.
I find that the best way to address this idea of child protection is to use the idea of a four-square.
“Awareness” is the first quadrant in our four-square.
What constitutes maltreatment of children is culturally defined, so it varies some depending on the country you’re working in. So educate yourself about what’s acceptable in a family in the culture in which you’re working. But the second aspect of awareness is educate yourselves on what our standard would be, which is the United Nations standard for treatment of children. That doesn’t allow for any corporal punishment of any sort.
For the sake of our purposes, we’re going to define abuse as any kind of self-harm that children commit to themselves, any kind of peer abuse, any harm caused by an adult, any kind of societal abuse against a particular subgroup in a culture, and of course neglect, as is sexual abuse and emotional abuse. Those are the things that have to be avoided in a children’s home, and can be with a proper child protection policy.
The second quadrant in our four-square is “Prevention.”
The thing you’re trying to do in a children’s home is raise up whole children with decent self-esteem who can become adults in your society that contribute. If that’s your goal—and I know it is—then you have to again address this issue of the staff that relates to the child most strongly. You have to treat them as the key player they are.
You want to reduce the stressors for your direct childcare staff. You want to offer them support and training and education. You want to give them hope that they can achieve some of the things they want in life. You also need to provide them anger management because they’re in the role of parents and all of us parents get frustrated and angry at our children. And last but not least those people really need to be well-versed in sexual abuse prevention and the symptoms of sexual abuse. And in your home you need transparency where the activities of the staff that are relating to children are clear to everyone.
The third aspect is having guidelines in place for reporting misconduct.
First, you need to comply with the law of the country and the county that you’re operating in. But within your staff you must also—again—train them, and you also have to do that with children. So putting in place guidelines, practices, policies, and classes on how to report misconduct.
And last, but not least, I’m going to talk about “Responding” because you can’t hurt or help heal the difficulty that has happened.
So how we professionals and adults respond to someone who outcries that they have been hurt or abused and how we respond to the person who has committed the abuse are going to be key factors in how well you create an environment of child protection.
In summary I’ll give you a few simple steps:
The first thing you need to do is to write an intention and a mission for the protection of children inside your home. Secondly, you get to start the hard work of teaching and reinforcing these ideas with your frontline staff. Many of these ideas will be new in the culture in which you’re working. I want to say that awareness and prevention are the most important. That’s where you want to put the bulk of your attention and resources as you begin to think about creating an environment inside your children’s home that protects children from harm.
Reporting and responding sadly are something that we do after something bad has happened. So please join me in focusing on this idea that child protection is as important as the other things we protect for these children. It is a basic building block of the good work we do on behalf of parentless children in this world.
They are so worth it.