Statement of Responsibility
Be Kids Australia Inc ("BKA") is committed to the safety and well being of the children it works with and their protection from abuse and exploitation, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child. BKA endorses and supports the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989). BKA will act without hesitation to ensure a child-‐safe environment is maintained to the best of its ability especially having regard to child abuse and child pornography.
Our in-country partners, whether formal or informal ("Partner Agencies"), are likewise responsible for ensuring that child protection policies and standards are developed in accordance with the laws of the relevant country and implemented.
BKA takes its duty of care seriously and will aim at all times to provide the safest possible programs and environments for children. This will be achieved by identifying and managing risks that may lead to harm.
Purpose of the BKA Child Protection Policy
For the purpose of this policy, a child will be considered to be a person under the age of 18 years. The BKA Child Protection Policy (CPP) has been developed to provide a practical guide to prevent child abuse in BKA projects and programs. It will outline a range of risk management strategies that will be implemented which will reduce the risk of children being harmed.
- will demonstrate BKA's commitment to protect children from harm and abuse;
- aims to educate staff and others about child abuse and promote a child safe and a child friendly culture where everyone is committed to keeping children safe;
- aims to create an open and aware environment where concerns for the safety and well being of a child can be raised and managed in a fair and just manner, which protects the rights of all;
- will provide guidance on how to respond to concerns and allegations of child abuse. It provides guidance to BKA volunteers, personnel, Partner Agencies and others on how to work respectfully and effectively with children. This will foster a safe working environment.
BKA is obliged to adhere to local and international child protection criminal laws, which prohibit the abuse and exploitation of children. These include local laws where BKA programs exist, and international laws and Conventions in relation to all forms of child abuse and child exploitation, including: child sex tourism, child sex trafficking, child labour and child pornography.
Child abuse is not tolerated by BKA, nor is possession of or access to child pornography. Child abuse consists of anything which directly harms children or damages their prospects of safe and healthy development into adulthood. Child abuse can be physical abuse (purposeful injuries or threat to injure), emotional abuse (chronic attack on child's self esteem), neglect (failure to provide a child with basic necessities of life such as food, clothing, shelter and supervision) or bullying.
The majority of sexual abuse takes place within the family and community. However, persons outside the community may also be a threat. Awareness raising provides education for members of Partner Agencies, volunteers and members as to what constitutes exploitation, abuse and neglect and what are the indicators of paedophilia and sexual abuse in the local context. Partner Agencies and BKA volunteers are to receive instructions on what constitutes abuse and exploitation, to be monitored by the Be Kids Child Protection Officer.
BKA is committed to educating personnel 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 BKA programs and in their own community, and provide information about child protection to the children and communities in which we work.
Scope of the Policy
This CPP applies to all BKA personnel, Partner vAgencies personnel and other key groups. 'Personnel' refers to: full-time, part-time, international and national and also those engaged on short-term contracts such as: consultancies, researchers, photographers, etc and includes volunteers.
BKA Child Protection Policy will be reviewed every two years. BKA Child Protection Officer will manage the review of the CPP and BKA personnel and Partner Agencies will be consulted in this process.
BKA recognises that there are a number of potential risks to children in the delivery of our programs. In recognising these risks, assessment of the circumstance of children is incorporated into surveys conducted prior to the initiation of a program. Where relevant, such assessments include plans to work with communities to reduce risks facing vulnerable children and to address the needs of children who are in situations of abuse, neglect or exploitation.
Working with the communities provides BKA the opportunity to develop close links between project Partner Agencies and local law enforcement agencies.
BKA will offer information on community resources and support services to project Partner Agencies.
Recognising the high-risk features of the activities involving working with children who have been abandoned or orphaned and who have been abused, BKA personnel will be trained on local risks to the children.
Programs should be educational and generally explore the cause of child abuse and exploitation and implement responses (including how to report concerns about abuse) to support family and community responsibility for the well being of children.
Children are considered active participants whose hopes and aspirations are respected and whose welfare is of paramount importance. They are involved in programs designed to protect them through mechanisms that give them a voice and provide them with skills for protecting themselves. However, the responsibility for protection of children lies with adults. Children should not be expected to make adult decisions.
Risk management is an ongoing part of every activity and BKA conducts a child protection risk assessment on every new and emerging program and project, included in the project management cycle. A child abuse incident reporting sheet has been developed and BKA personnel and project Partner Agencies are aware of its existence.
BKA is committed to child safe recruitment, selection and screening practices. Volunteers on the field are screened by way of personal interview, targeted reference check and police clearance (to be reviewed every two years). They are made aware of the Child Protection Policy before departure and will be required to sign the CPP.
In the best interests of children, Partner Agencies are encouraged to adhere to the BKA Child Protection Policy and should not work with anyone with a prior conviction for child abuse, paedophilia or related offences.
Volunteers and Partner Agencies must fulfill accountability requirements which are set out in the BKA Child Protection Policy and report regularly to BKA on the activities.
BKA reserves the right to refuse engagement of the volunteers or terminate any person's engagement that may pose a risk to children.
Training of Volunteers & General Membership
BKA is commited to training its volunteer members on child protection. Before departure, an induction session will be presented by the BKA Child Protection Officer to the field volunteer member. During the session, the charter for BKA will be explained and the importance of child protection will be emphasised.
Every field volunteer member will receive a copy of the Child Protection Policy and time will be given during the session for them to read the contents.
BKA will emphasise that the CPP is an important document and underlies the work that we do. After reading the CPP, any questions or issues raised will be discussed. Before the session ends, each field volunteer member must sign the CPP agreeing to abide by the terms of the CPP.
The general membership will be informed by way of the Annual General Meeting that the CPP is an important document and underlies the work that we do. Copies will be made available for the general membership, also in e-copy form.
Behaviour protocols are designed to protect children, but are also intended to protect staff form false accusations of inappropriate behavior or abuse. In addition to reflecting behaviour requirements based on local sensitivities, the basic Behaviour Protocol includes:
- BKA personnel will treat children with respect regardless of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status;
- BKA personnel will not use language or behaviour towards children that is inappropriate, harassing, abusive, sexually provocative, demeaning or culturally inappropriate.
- BKA personnel must not stay alone overnight with one or more children or minors, whether in the personnel's house, project premises or elsewhere.
- BKA personnel should not hire minors as "house help" or provide shelter for minors in their homes. Even though providing employment for a minor may be culturally acceptable and provide benefits not otherwise available to the child, the hiring of minors may lead to misunderstandings and is inconsistent with BKA efforts to prevent exploitative child labour.
- BKA personnel must not fondle, hold, kiss, hug or touch minors in an inappropriate or culturally insensitive way. To avoid misunderstanding, it is recommended that a child be asked for permission before touching or holding hands.
- Where possible and practica, the "two-adult" rule, wherein two or more adults supervise all activities where minors or children are involved and are present at all times, should be followed. If this is not possible, BKA personnel are encouraged to look for alternatives such as being accompanied by community members on visits to children.
- BKA personnel need to be aware that they may work with children who, because of the circumstances and abuses they have experienced may use a relationship to obtain "special attention". The adult is always considered responsible even if a child behaves seductively. Adults should avoid being placed in a compromising or vulnerable position.
- BKA personnel must be concerned about perception and appearance in their language, actions and relationships with minors and children.
- BKA personnel will immediately report concerns or allegations of child abuse in accordance with the procedure outlined below.
Allegation/Incident Management Plan
- Reporting and response
Child abusers are not likely to remain in an environment where workers are trained to report suspicious behaviour. Child abusers thrive on secrecy and are more likely to commit an abusive act when they are unnoticed, or when they are in an environment in which others are naïve and insensitive to the possibility of child abusive. A preliminary report on the incident must be prepared by the complainant with assistance, as may be required, from the Be Kids Child Protection Officer. This initial documentation will be used in an investigation of the incidence as outlined in Appendix B.
The preliminary report must include the following:
- An outline of the incident, the individuals involved and the circumstances in which the alleged incident occurred;
- Clearly identified statement - as to any knowledge or suspicion that a child has been molested or that inappropriate behavior is occurring;
- Procedures for reporting according to locally mandated laws. In some instances, local police may carry out an investigation. Any interference could have legal implications for BKA personnel;
- A proposal/plan for conducting an in-house investigation which ensures that a child is not held responsible, unless the facts indicate otherwise. The investigation must be treated with care and concern, particularly as a child may fear retribution and punishment while a staff member accused of child abuse will be concerned for his or her privacy and legal rights;
- A proposal/plan for responding to the results of an investigation that includes consideration for the welfare of the child. The corrective action policy of the office concerned should be taken into consideration with regard to the person accused; and
- A proposal/plan for dealing with media inquiries that includes a designated spokesperson.
- Suspected child abuse
- Other reporting situations
- Response to findings and concluding an investigation
In the event of an incident of suspected child abuse, BKA will put into effect internal reporting steps outlined above, seek instructions from and report to local authorities as required, having due regard to the appropriateness of informing local law and judicial mechanisms where this is not a requirement.
Any person who has knowledge of a potential child protection issue involving BKA should immediately contact the Be Kids Child Protection Officer.
- The welfare of a child is of prime importance. If sexual abuse is proven or suspected, every effort is made to assist the child in coping with any trauma or guilt he or she may be experiencing. This may include psychological counseling or another form of assistance deemed necessary and appropriate;
- There should be a review of the facts uncovered during the investigation to determine what actually happened, followed by a consultative decision making process about the future of the perpetrator. If a volunteer of BKA, the volunteer will have the findings of the investigation shared with him/her and his/her membership to BKA will be immediately terminated and the volunteer will be removed from the field or the program. Provision for suspension of duties is included in the volunteer's terms of engagement with BKA.
- During the period of investigation the volunteer should be informed that charges have been made against him or her and given the opportunity to respond. The volunteer is encouraged to participate in the investigation by providing information and the names of witnesses to be interviewed. At the conclusion of the investigation, the volunteer would be informed of the results o the investigation and what corrective action, if any, will be taken;
- In the event that an allegation is proven to be untrue, or even fabricated, appropriate steps are taken for follow-‐up with the person who has been accused, the child, and the person who did the reporting;
- All information concerning the incident and investigation is documented in writing. A copy of the confidential report of the investigation and conclusion is to be retained by BKA Board;
- In the event that a volunteer is discharged for suspected sexual abuse, BKA may disclose such information if requested by a prospective employer.
Under the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth), it is a crime for Australians to engage in, encourage or benefit from sexual activity with persons under the age of 16 while overseas. Persons charged with this criminal offence face penalties of up to 17 years' imprisonment and companies charged with this criminal offence face fines of up to $561,000.
Further, the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) provides for a penalty of 10 years' imprisonment for possession of child pornography depicting persons under the age of 18, and up to 15 years' imprisonment for online grooming of persons under the age of 16.
Mentor Visits and Field Excursions
- BKA and Partner Agencies receive awareness raising and training about the need for child protection, strategies to protect children and the detection of possible irregularities related to mentor visits and field excursions.
- A child's profile, history, picture folders and photographs are stored in locked and secure facilities to which a limited authorised number of people have access.
- BKA prohibits unannounced visits.
- A mentor and a child should not exchange home addresses.
Visitors to BKA Projects
- All visitors to BKA Projects are to be advised of behavior protocols that should reference national and local sensitivities. Visitors should sign an acknowledgment of receipt and understanding of these protocols as part of their orientation process.
- A BKA Member or a member of the Partner Agency must accompany all visitors to BKA Projects.
- Local in county Partner Agency must be aware that if any visitor makes an unannounced or unescorted visit to a community, the visit is reported immediately to the Be Kids Child Protection Officer.
Communication About Children
- Communications about children should use pictures that are decent and respectful, not presenting them as victims. Children should be adequately clothed, and poses that could be interpreted as sexually suggestive should be avoided. Language that implies a relationship of power should also be avoided.
- Individuals or organisations requesting the use of BKA resources such as videos or photographs should be required to sign an agreement covering the proper use of such materials to prevent reproduction and a statement that any unauthorised use or reproduction could subject the borrower to legal action.
Privacy and Confidentiality
- Personal information collected in regard to the children BKA works with should not be shared with an unauthorised person(s).
- BKA will take every reasonable precaution to protect child information and picture folders from falling into the hands of individuals who do not share BKA's commitment to the protection of children. BKA will maintain its picture folders and child information in a secure environment as is practicable and every caution will be exercised to ensure security.
- Pictures, images or other likenesses of children and/or information related to children that could compromise their care and protection will not be made available through any form of communication media without proper protection and understanding of their use. Moreover, any images of children should not be accompanied by information relating to their place of residence.
- Information about a child protection incident is shared with people on a 'right' and 'need to know' basis as deemed necessary by appropriate management. Names and identities are not to be disclosed outside the designated as 'need to know' unless cleared by appropriate management.
BKA officers entering into agreements with Partner Agencies which provide services to children should require assurance that child protection policies and procedures are in place, acknowledging that lack of such policies can place children and BKA at risk. To the best of its ability, BKA shall apply the same high standards to its Partner Agencies, subcontractors or associates and other third party volunteers.
BKA is committed to child and youth participation. BKA will provide opportunities for children's views to be heard and will incorporate their views into its CPP and programs. They will be consulted n 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 ad inappropriate behaviours. Children will also be informed about BKA child abuse process and who to contact if they are at risk, have been abused or are concerned about another child.
Reviewing the CCP
This CPP will be reviewed and updated every 2 years. However, where there is a need to update the policy before 2 years as a result of the experiences BKA face in implementing the CPP, BKA is committed to reviewing the CPP as and when required so that it adapts to the evolving eventualities in all regards.
Joan Peters LLB BA