The Child Safe Standards were introduced in response to recommendations from the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Non-Government Organisations. The Inquiry found that more must be done to prevent and respond to child abuse.
The Child Safe Standards apply to all organisations that provide services for children. Compliance with the Child Safe Standards is a requirement of the Child Wellbeing and Safety Amendment (Child Safe Standards) Act 2015.
The Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) has powers to oversee and enforce compliance with the Child Safe Standards. CCYP may also refer allegations of non-compliance to relevant authorities such as the Quality Assessment and Regulation Division (QARD) in the Department of Education and Training (DET).
The child safe standards comprise three overarching principles and seven standards.
The following documentation addresses all specified principles and standards and embeds all required strategies into the culture and structure of Youth Dimension through our Child Safe Policies.
The Child Safe Standards require Youth Dimension (YD) to have child safety strategies embedded in our organisational culture and structure, including application through effective leadership and governance. Protecting children from abuse is the responsibility of all Board members, employees and volunteers associated with Youth Dimension, and relevant principles and standards must be incorporated into the behaviour and practice of all departments and individuals.
Child Safe Environment
A child-safe environment is the product of a range of strategies and initiatives. YD fosters a culture of openness, inclusiveness and awareness. Children, young people and adults should know what to do if they observe or are subject to abuse or inappropriate behaviour.
YD takes a preventative, proactive and participatory approach to child safety issues. The safety and wellbeing of children and young people at YD are paramount when developing programs, policies, and management decisions and practices.
Identify and analyse the risk of abuse
YD adopts the Department of Health and Human Services five-stage approach to responding, supporting, reporting, and communicating child abuse risks (detailed in our Abuse Reporting Policy, page 11). This includes a risk management strategy and policies that set out how YD identifies, assess, and takes steps to reduce or remove the risk of child abuse.
YD has developed a Child Safety Policy and Child Protection Policy, which outlines our commitment to promoting children and young people’s wellbeing and protecting them from abuse.
Child Safe - Code of Conduct
YD has a Child Safe Code of Conduct outlining the standards of conduct and care required when working and interacting with children and young people.
The Child Safe Policy, Child Protection Policy and the Child Safe Code of Conduct will be provided to all staff, Board members and volunteers for annual review and signature.
YD provides both their volunteers and employees with ongoing training, support and supervision in order to remain at the forefront of Child Safety Standards and required reporting of abuse.
YD’s Child Safety Officer has knowledge of child safety issues and is the point of contact for others who have questions or concerns or want to report an allegation of abuse.
Statement of Commitment
YD is inclusive to all children and families.
In particular YD supports:
· Promoting the cultural safety, participation and empowerment of Aboriginal children
· Promoting the cultural safety, participation and empowerment of children with culturally and /or linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds
· Promoting the safety, participation and empowerment of children with a disability
YD Human Resources
The Child Safe Standards guide YD’s implementation of screening, supervision, training, and other human resource practices to specifically reduce the risk of child abuse by new and existing personnel.
YD has robust Human Resource practices that reduce the risk of child abuse, including the recruitment, training, and supervision of all personnel.
To achieve this, YD provides opportunities for employees and volunteers to develop and maintain skills to ensure child safety. This supports staff and volunteers to understand the importance of child safety and wellbeing and enables them to consistently follow child safety policies and procedures.
Child Safety Officer
Youth Dimension’s Child Safety Officer will support employees and volunteers by ensuring specific ‘child-safe duties are recorded in job descriptions. This designated person will also hear or be informed about all allegations or concerns, and provide support to any person impacted by the allegation or concern. This enables YD to ensure child safety is prioritised, and that any allegations of abuse or safety concerns are recorded and responded to consistently and in line with YD’s legal requirements, and policies and procedures.
The Child Safety Officer provides a single point of contact for children, parents and employees/volunteers to seek advice and support regarding the safety and wellbeing of children associated with YD.
Youth Dimension Child Safety Officer: Lindsay Tunbridge Lindsay@youthdimension.org.au
Training and Induction
Training and education are important tools to help people understand that child safety is everyone’s responsibility. All employees and volunteers receive an induction and ongoing child safety training. New staff receive support and information when they begin their new role, and existing staff are kept up to date to meet new requirements.
Training and support also promote an awareness of the appropriate standards of care required to be met by employees and volunteers to ensure YD meets its duty of care when providing services.
It is essential YD staff and volunteers commit to promoting the safety and wellbeing of children by signing Youth Dimension’s Child Safe Code of Conduct, Child Safety Policy, Abuse Reporting Policy, Child Protection Policy and Social Media Policy.
Employees and volunteers working with children need to receive training in the following areas:
· identifying, assessing, and reducing or removing the risk of child abuse
· YD’s policies and procedures
· legislative requirements, such as the obligation to report child abuse, reduce and remove known risks of child abuse, and to hold valid Working with Children Check documentation
· how to handle disclosure, or, suspicion of abuse, including YD’s Abuse Reporting Policy
Supervision of employees and volunteers is managed in a way that protects children from abuse, improves accountability and performance without being onerous or heavy-handed.
As a matter of good practice, new employees and volunteers should be supervised regularly to ensure they understand their role and learn skills, as well as to check that their behaviours towards children are appropriate.
Any warning signs are reported to the Child Safe Officer.
YD takes all reasonable steps to ensure that it engages the most suitable and appropriate people to work with children. This includes police record and identity checks where required, Working with Children Checks, face to face interviews and detailed reference checks from previous employers and church pastors/ministry leaders.
We develop selection criteria that clearly demonstrate our commitment to child safety and an awareness of our social and legislative responsibilities. YD understands that when recruiting staff and volunteers we have ethical as well as legislative obligations.
All people engaged in child-related work, including volunteers, are required to hold a Working with Children Check and to provide evidence of this Check. Please see the Working with Children Check website www.workingwithchildren.vic.gov.au for further information.
We carry out reference checks and police record checks to ensure that we are recruiting the right people. Police record checks are used only for the purposes of recruitment and are discarded after the recruitment process is complete. We do retain our own records (but not the actual criminal record) if an applicant’s criminal history affected our decision-making process.
If during the recruitment process a person’s records indicate a criminal history then the person will be given the opportunity to provide further information and context.
Fair Procedures for Personnel
The safety and wellbeing of children is our primary concern. We are also fair and just to personnel. The decisions we make when recruiting, assessing incidents, and undertaking disciplinary action will always be thorough, transparent and based on evidence.
We record all allegations of abuse and safety concerns using our Risk of Significant Harm Form including investigation updates. All records are securely stored.
If an allegation of abuse or a safety concern is raised, we provide updates to the children and families on progress and any actions we take as an organisation.
All personal information considered or recorded will respect the privacy of the individuals involved, whether they be staff, volunteers, parents or children unless there is a risk to someone’s safety. YD have safeguards and practices in place to ensure any personal information is protected such as our Privacy and Confidentiality Policy. Everyone is entitled to know how this information is recorded, what will be done with it, and who will have access to it.
Child Safety and Protection
The Child Safe Policy, Child Safe Code of Conduct and Child Protection Policy are publicly available to help raise awareness concerning the importance we place on child safety at YD and our commitment to protecting children from abuse. The Board agrees to make it accessible on our website, in induction for new staff and volunteers, and for children and families.
This Child Safe Policy, the Child Safe Code of Conduct and Child Protection Policy are pending approval from the YD Board.
YD’s Child Safety Policy aligns with the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act of 2005 (The Act), The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations by The Australian Human Rights Commission and the Commission for Children and Young People guiding framework. The Child Protection and Child Safety policies provide further guidance for YD staff, partner agency staff and volunteers on appropriate behaviour when interacting with young people. YD respects the rights and welfare of all peoples and their involvement in providing a safe environment and will not knowingly engage people and organisations who will increase the risk of an unsafe environment.
The Child Safe Standards comprise three overarching principles and seven broad standards:
· Promoting the cultural safety of Aboriginal children.
· Promoting the cultural safety of children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
· Promoting the safety of children with a disability.
· Strategies to embed a culture of child safety through effective leadership arrangements.
· A child-safe policy or statement of commitment to child safety.
· A child-safe code of conduct that establishes clear expectations for appropriate behaviour with children.
· Screening, supervision, training, and other human resources practices that reduce the risk of child abuse by new and existing staff.
· Processes for responding to and reporting suspected child abuse.
· Strategies to identify and reduce or remove risks of child abuse.
· Strategies to promote the participation and empowerment of children.
All young people involved in YD’s activities, services, events or programs have the right to feel and be safe.
YD will do all in its power to safeguard young people from all forms of abuse. This includes the requirements to report abuse to the appropriate authorities, (please refer to the Report Abuse Policy, page 11).
In addition to our public policy, YD is guided in its operations by other policies and programs that support the protection of children and young people. These policies and programs include:
· Access to YD’s Staff Handbook
· Development and delivery of awareness and training for YD staff and volunteers
· Development, implementation, and review of risk assessments to reduce incidents and eliminate the risk of abuse
· Recruiting through screening processes and not employing inappropriate persons
· Staff behavioural expectations (as outlined in the Code of Conduct)
· YD’s Child Safe Code of Conduct
· Bullying, Harassment & Violence Policy
· Report Abuse Policy
What is child abuse?
The child safe standards aim to protect children from abuse in organisations. Under the Act, child abuse includes five categories of abuse as outlined below.
Physical violence occurs when a child suffers or is likely to suffer significant harm from a non-accidental injury or injuries inflicted by another person. Physical violence can be inflicted in many ways, including beating, shaking, burning or use of weapons (such as belts and paddles).
Possible physical indicators:
· Unexplained bruises
· Burns and/or fractured bones
Possible behavioural indicators:
· Showing wariness or distrust of adults
· Wearing long-sleeved clothes on hot days (to hide bruising or other injuries)
· Fear of specific people
· Unexplained absences
· Academic problems
Sexual offences occur when a person involves the child in sexual activity or deliberately puts the child in the presence of sexual behaviours that are exploitative or inappropriate to his/her age and development. Child sexual abuse can involve a range of sexual activity including fondling, masturbation, penetration, voyeurism and exhibitionism. It can also include exposure to or exploitation through pornography or prostitution, as well as grooming behaviour.
Possible physical indicators:
· Presence of sexually transmitted diseases
· Vaginal or anal bleeding or discharge
Possible behavioural indicators:
· Displaying sexual behaviour or knowledge that is unusual for the child’s age
· Difficulty sleeping
· Being withdrawn
· Complaining of headaches or stomach pains
· Fear of specific people
· Showing wariness or distrust of adults
· Displaying aggressive behaviour
Serious emotional or psychological abuse
Serious emotional or psychological abuse occurs when harm is inflicted on a child through repeated rejection, isolation, or threats or violence. It can include derogatory name-calling and put-downs, or persistent and deliberate coldness from a person, to the extent where the behaviour of the child is disturbed, or their emotional development is at serious risk of being impaired. Serious emotional or psychological abuse could also result from conduct that exploits a child without necessarily being criminal, such as encouraging a child to engage in inappropriate or risky behaviours.
Possible physical indicators:
· Delays in emotional, mental, or even physical development
· Physical signs of self-harming
Possible behavioural indicators:
· Exhibiting low self-esteem
· Exhibiting high anxiety
· Displaying aggressive or demanding behaviour
· Being withdrawn, passive and/or tearful
Serious neglect is the continued failure to provide a child with the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, shelter, hygiene, medical attention or adequate supervision, to the extent that the child’s health, safety and/or development is, or is likely to be, jeopardised. Serious neglect can also occur if an adult fails to adequately ensure the safety of a child where the child is exposed to extremely dangerous or life-threatening situations.
Possible physical indicators:
· Frequent hunger
· Poor hygiene
· Inappropriate clothing
Possible behavioural indicators:
· Stealing food
· Staying at school outside of school hours
· Aggressive behaviour
· Misusing alcohol or drugs
· Academic issues
The law states that a child or young person at risk of harm or neglect, as a result of a single incident or several ongoing incidents, must be protected.
Child abuse includes:
· hurting or threatening to hurt a young person physically, sexually or emotionally
· exposing a child to the risk of significant physical, sexual or emotional harm, such as:
- being caught in the middle of family violence
- allowing people with a history of child sex offences to be in the home
- having care of a child while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs or whilst living with an untreated mental health issue
Neglecting a child includes:
· not giving a child enough food, clothing, shelter or necessary medical care
· failing to provide proper supervision
Duty of Care and Negligence
YD upholds the principle of duty of care. It is a legal requirement to take reasonable care of another person and to protect them from any foreseeable risk.
Foreseeable risks are those not completely unexpected. If a likely risk is identified, YD will take reasonable care to prevent it.
YD conducts Activity Risk Assessment and documents all incidents, to constantly assess foreseeable risk and provide solutions.
Furthermore, YD’s duty of care ensures staff and volunteers are experienced, trained and have up-to-date qualifications, run with the right staff-to-young people ratios, reassess and updates their policies and procedures manual when required, and has adequate resources to run YD activities correctly.
Duty of Care
Duty to staff: YD provides employees and volunteers with a safe work environment, necessary information, instructions, training, and supervision.
Duty to young people: YD upholds that all information is kept confidential and private, minimises foreseeable injury/risks, and the organisation and staff act professionally.
YD has a limited duty of care when young people and community members are outside YD and its grounds. However, YD staff and volunteers will ensure outside of YD, activities are safe, will enforce behavioural expectations and YD’s rules, and follow relevant policies and procedures.
Untrained staff and volunteers do not owe the same duty of care as paid and trained staff. However, they still need to be aware of duty of care and act accordingly and align with occupational health and safety procedures. Volunteers and untrained staff are not to be left unsupervised with young people.
Negligence is when someone fails to provide duty of care and another person is injured. If a YD employee or volunteer owes a duty of care and fails to do so, it may result in YD being sued for negligence.
Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S)
YD endeavours to prevent illness and injury of staff, partner agency staff and volunteers by:
· Having staff & volunteers follow YD’s policies and guidelines
· YD keeps its equipment in a safe condition and damaged equipment is notified to relevant YD staff and documented in an Incident Report form
· Fire exits are maintained and marked
· Washrooms, toilets and meal areas are cleaned and hygienic
· Information, training and supervision are provided so people can work safely and without risk
· Consulting with staff and volunteers about changes to workplace systems, equipment, substances, risk assessments, etc.
YD will monitor the health of staff and volunteers and provide information about health and safety requirements (fire evacuation policy, first aid policy, etc.), keep records on the health and safety of staff and volunteers.
All YD staff, volunteers and representatives must comply with YD’s Child Protection Policy and Child Safety Policy.
· Everyone must align their behaviour and practices with YD’s Child Safe Code of Conduct & Code of Conduct
· Everyone must immediately raise concerns regarding a young people’s safety or wellbeing if notified
· Everyone must be visible when working with young people and ensure another staff member or volunteer is present when working in the proximity of young people
· Everyone must listen to young people’s needs and allow them to engage in decisions that affect them
· Everyone must comply with all relevant laws
· All unacceptable behaviour outlined in YD’s Child Safe Code of Conduct & Code of Conduct
· Using language or demonstrating behaviour towards young people that is inappropriate, harassing, abusive, demeaning, sexually provocative, or culturally inappropriate
· Engaging young people in any form of activity that is demeaning, offensive, sexually provocative, abusive, or culturally inappropriate
· Excluding or showing unfair treatment towards or favouring a particular young person
· Using equipment, including but not limited to computers, mobile phones, video, or digital cameras inappropriately or without the consent of young people and his/her parents or guardians
NB: If a young person wishes to have a confidential talk under no circumstances will a member of YD’s staff or volunteers be alone with a young person in a private, concealed, closed-door room. A minimum of two (2) staff members must be present at all times: one staff will be interviewing, listening, supporting or asking questions and the other will be documenting as much as possible (either writing in dot-points to taking detailed notes).
Effective reporting procedures are in place to ensure any incidents (alleged inappropriate behaviour or misconduct towards young people) are managed in accordance with the Child Safety Policy, Child Protection Policy and relevant YD policies.
YD’s Reporting Abuse Policy aligns with the Children Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005, which outlines law regarding the reporting of concerns about child welfare. The Act allows anyone who reasonably believes that a child (under 18 years old) needs protection to report their concerns to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Child Protection service or to the Police.
The Reporting Abuse Policy does not breach any professional ethics or confidentiality and privacy of information policy if a report is made in good faith; nor will a person reporting be liable to any action for damage or other legal proceedings.
YD staff and volunteers must use YD’s Risk of Significant Harm Form and document as much information as possible with a witness and/or with the use of an electronic recording device.
Mandatory reporting pertains to specific professionals who have been required by the Act to report to DHHS Child Protection or police if, during their employment, they believe that a child (under 18 years old) is in need of protection because their parents are unlikely or unable to protect them from significant harm as a result of physical injury or sexual abuse.
A report of this manner must be made promptly and based on reasonable grounds. Failure of mandatory reporting on such abuse is an offence, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.
Reporting child sex offences is a legal obligation. If any person aged 18 years or over forms a reasonable belief that another adult has committed a sexual offence against a child under 16 years, they must report the information to the police as soon as possible. Failure to do so is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment unless a person has a ‘reasonable excuse.’ Also, any attempted sexual offences or any assaults with intent to commit a sexual offence against a child under 16 years must be reported.
Sexual offence against a child under 16 years of age that must be reported include:
· Indecent assault
· Unlawful sexual act with a child under 16 years (with or without consent)
· Communication with a child with intent to commit a sexual offence (grooming)
Reasonable belief is when a person has formed a belief that an adult has committed a sexual offence against a child under 16 years of age. No proof that a sexual offence has occurred is required to form a reasonable belief, as reasonable belief can be formed on the basis of what a child or someone else has verbally communicated to a person or through observation of a child’s behaviour.
A reasonable excuse not to report exists if a person fears for the safety of the victim or self, or a person has a belief that somebody else has made a report.
Reporting Child Abuse Five Action Procedure By DHHS:
If you believe a child (even an unborn child) is at risk of being abused or neglected, or there is a real risk of this, you can:
· Call the police on 000 if a child is in immediate danger, has been sexual offended or experienced severe physical or emotional abuse
· Report concerns to the Child Protection Crisis Line on 131 278 (24 hours, 7 days a week, toll-free within Victoria)
· Contact your local Department of Human Services Child FIRST Office 1800 663 107
· Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800
· Lifeline on 13 11 14
Reporting child abuse or neglect is confidential.
The Child Safe Standards require YD to have processes for responding to and reporting suspected child abuse and adapts the Five Action steps provided by DHHS.
If a child discloses an incident of abuse to you:
· Try and separate them from the other children discreetly and listen to them carefully.
· Let the child use their own words to explain what has occurred.
· Reassure the child that you take what they are saying seriously, and it is not their fault and that they are doing the right thing.
· Explain to them that this information may need to be shared with others, such as with their parent/carer, specific people in your organisation, or the police.
· Do not make promises to the child such as promising not to tell anyone about the incident, except that you will do your best to keep them safe.
· Do not leave the child in a distressed state. If they seem at ease in your company, stay with them.
· Provide them with an incident report form to complete or complete it together if you think the child is able to do this.
· As soon as possible after the disclosure, record the information using the child’s words and report the disclosure to YD’s Executive Officer or Child Safety Officer, police or child protection.
· Ensure the disclosure is recorded accurately, and that the record is stored securely.
If a parent/carer says their child has been abused in your organisation or raises a concern:
· Explain that YD has processes to ensure all abuse allegations are taken very seriously.
· Ask about the wellbeing of the child.
· Allow the parent/carer to talk through the incident in their own words.
· Advise the parent/carer that you will take notes during the discussion to capture all details.
· Explain to them the information may need to be repeated to authorities or others, such as YD’s Executive Office or Child Safety Officer, the police or child protection.
· Do not make promises at this early stage, except that you will do your best to keep the child safe.
· Provide them with an incident report form to complete or complete it together.
· Ask them what action they would like to take and advise them of what the immediate next steps will be.
· Ensure the report is recorded accurately, and that the record is stored securely
Action One – Responding to the Emergency
If there is no immediate harm to the child or young person, proceed to Action Two.
If a child's immediate safety is compromised, a child is at risk of harm or a child is involved in any risk-taking activity that poses a high risk to the child, you must take reasonable steps to protect them. This includes:
· Ensuring the child’s immediate health and safety is supported by an appropriate staff member.
· If the child seems at ease in your company, stay with them.
· Ensuring the alleged offender does not have access to the child arranging and providing urgent medical assistance where necessary by:
- administering first aid assistance
- calling 000 for an ambulance and following any instructions from emergency service officers/paramedics
· Calling 000 for urgent police assistance if the person who is alleged to have engaged in the abuse poses an immediate risk to the health and safety of any person
- you should also identify a contact person at the organisation for future liaison with the police
· Taking reasonable steps to preserve evidence, such as the environment, clothing, other items, and potential witnesses until the police or other relevant authorities arrive on the premises.
Action Two - Provide support to the child
If a child has experienced or disclosed abuse or serious neglect, you should:
· Listen to them carefully and let the child use their own words to explain what has occurred.
· Reassure the child that you are taking what they are saying seriously and that it is not their fault and they are doing the right thing.
· Explain to them that this information will need to be shared with others, such as their parent/carer, specific people in your organisation, Child Protection, and the police.
· Not make promises to the child, such as promising not to tell anyone about the incident, except that you will do your best to keep them safe.
· As appropriate, complete an incident form with or on behalf of the child or young person.
Action Three – Report
As soon as the child’s immediate safety concerns are addressed, you must report all incidents or disclosures of abuse or serious neglect. You may be committing a criminal offence if you fail to report allegations of physical or sexual abuse of a child (refer to Mandatory Reporting on page 16).
The process for reporting should be outlined in our organisation’s policy for responding to and reporting child abuse. Reports should be made to the Chief Executive Officer or appropriate senior staff, such as the child safety officer. This may also include reporting to:
· Victoria Police with information provided to include if the client has a cognitive disability or mental illness and will need the support of an independent third person during an interview or when a statement is being taken.
· Child Protection if you believe a child is at risk of significant harm and/or in need of protection. Please refer to the Professionals' reporting guide http://www.cpmanual.vic.gov.au/advice-and-protocols/protocols/professionals-reporting-guide for further information.
· The Commission for Children and Young People if the matter is reportable conduct, and ensuring the report is made within the required timeframes https://ccyp.vic.gov.au/assets/resources/Responsibilities-of-the-head-of-an-organisation.docx. See below for further information about the reportable conduct scheme.
· The government department which funds and/or regulates your organisation, such as the Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Education and Training.
As soon as possible after the incident or disclosure, record the information using the child’s words while ensuring that the documentation is recorded accurately and stored securely. Likewise, ensure that any incident report, if required, is submitted within the appropriate timeframes.
Action Four - Contact parents, carers or guardians
The process for contacting parents, carers or guardians of the child should be outlined in our organisation’s policy for responding to and reporting child abuse.
Organisations should advise Child Protection and/or Victoria Police when a child has disclosed allegations of abuse perpetrated by their parent, carer, guardian or another family member. This is critical to ensuring the safety of the child as well as to avoid compromising any investigations conducted by the relevant authorities or agencies.
Where appropriate, a senior representative of our organisation should make sensitive and professional contact with parents, carers or guardians of the child as soon as possible on the day of the incident or disclosure.
Where it is suspected that a child has been, or is at risk of being abused, a parent, carer or guardian of the child must be notified as soon as practicable. This is not applicable where it is known or suspected that the parent, carer or guardian is the alleged perpetrator of harm or abuse and/or is unlikely to protect the child. This enables parents, carers and guardians to take steps to:
· Prevent or limit their child’s exposure to further abuse; and
· Ensure that their child receives the support that they require.
During this conversation, it is important to:
· Remain calm
· Be empathic to feelings
· Validate concerns
· Provide appropriate details of the incident, disclosure and/or suspicion of child abuse
· Outline the action the organization has taken to date
· Inform them of who the incident, disclosure and/or suspicion has been reported to
· Where relevant, provide the name and contact telephone number of Child Protection and/or the investigating police officer and advise as to whether they are likely to be contacted by these authorities
· Inform them the investigation may take some time and ask what further information they would like and how staff can assist them
· Offer for the organization to provide support to the child
· Inform them that the organisation can make referrals to support services
· If possible, invite the parents, carers or guardians to attend a meeting where a support plan can be prepared to ensure appropriate support can be provided for their child.
Action Five - Provide ongoing support
Experiences of child abuse can cause trauma and significantly impact the mental health and wellbeing of children.
In addition to reporting and referral to relevant authorities, organisations that provide services to children can play a central role in addressing this trauma and have a responsibility to ensure that children feel safe and supported. This should be done in partnership and with the consent of parents, carers or guardians.
Support can include referral to wellbeing professionals and community services (such as counselling) and may involve the development of a support plan.
Support, in the form of debriefing or counselling, if required, should also be provided to any impacted staff members.
While the child safe standards focus on organisations, every adult who reasonably believes that a child has been abused has an obligation to report that belief to authorities.
The failure to disclosecriminal offence requires all adults (aged 18 and over) who hold a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed in Victoria by an adult against a child under 16 years to disclose that information to the police (unless they have a reasonable excuse not to, for example, because they fear for their safety or the safety of another).
More information about failure to disclose is available on the Department of Justice and Regulation website https://www.justice.vic.gov.au/safer-communities/protecting-children-and-families/failure-to-disclose-offence
More information about mandatory reporting is available in the Child protection manual https://www.cpmanual.vic.gov.au/advice-and-protocols/advice/intake/mandatory-reporting.
Mandatory reporters(doctors, nurses, midwives, teachers, early childhood teachers, principals, police and people in religious ministry) must report to child protection if they believe on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection from physical injury or sexual abuse.
See the Department of Health and Human Services website for information about how to report child abuse and neglect https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/reporting-child-abuse-and-neglect .
The failure to protectcriminal offence (commenced on 1 July 2015) applies where there is a substantial risk that a child under the age of 16 years under the care, supervision or authority of a relevant organisation will become a victim of a sexual offence committed by an adult associated with that organisation. A person in a position of authority in the organisation will commit the offence if they know of the risk of abuse and have the power or responsibility to reduce or remove the risk, but negligently failed to do so.
Further information about failure to protect can be found on the Department of Justice and Regulation website https://www.justice.vic.gov.au/safer-communities/protecting-children-and-families/failure-to-protect-a-new-criminal-offence-to
YD takes our legal responsibilities seriously, including:
• Failure to disclose: Reporting child sexual abuse is a community-wide responsibility. All adults in Victoria who have a reasonable belief that an adult has committed a sexual offence against a child under 16 years have an obligation to report that information to the police.
• Failure to protect: People of authority in YD will commit an offence if they know of a substantial risk of child sexual abuse and have the power or responsibility to reduce or remove the risk, but negligently fail to do so.
• Any personnel who are mandatory reporters must comply with their duties. This includes everyone who is involved in a religious ministry.
This policy will be reviewed yearly and following significant incidents if they occur. Where possible we will ensure that families and children can contribute.
Allegations, concerns and complaints
YD takes all allegations seriously and has practices in place to investigate thoroughly and quickly. Our staff and volunteers are trained to deal appropriately with allegations.
We work to ensure all children, families, staff and volunteers know what to do and who to tell if they observe abuse or are a victim, and if they notice inappropriate behaviour.
We all have a responsibility to report an allegation of abuse if we have a reasonable belief that an incident took place (see information about failure to disclose above).
If an adult has a reasonable belief that an incident has occurred then they must report the incident. Factors contributing to reasonable belief may be:
a child states they or someone they know has been abused (noting that sometimes the child may in fact be referring to themselves)
behaviour consistent with that of an abuse victim is observed
someone else has raised a suspicion of abuse but is unwilling to report it
observing suspicious behaviour.
All staff, volunteers and Board of YD are required to observe Child Safety Standards and expectations for appropriate behaviour towards and in the company of children, as noted below.
All personnel of YD are responsible for supporting the safety, participation, wellbeing and empowerment of children by:
Adhering to YD’sChild Safe Policy and Child Protection Policy at all times and upholding YD’sStatements of Commitment to child safety at all time
Taking all reasonable steps to protect children from abuse
Treating everyone with respect
Listening and responding to the views and concerns of children, particularly if they are telling you that they or another child has been abused and/or are worried about their safety or the safety of another
Promoting the cultural safety, participation, and empowerment of Aboriginal children
Promoting the cultural safety, participation, and empowerment of children with culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds
Promoting the safety, participation, and empowerment of children with a disability
Ensuring as far as practicable that adults are not left alone with a child
Reporting any allegations of child abuse to YD’sChild Safety Officer Lindsay Tunbridge, and ensuring any allegations are to be reported to the police or child protection agency
Reporting any child safety concerns to YD’sChild Safety Officer Lindsay Tunbridge or leadership if an allegation of child abuse is made, ensure as quickly as possible that the child(ren) is safe
Encouraging children to ‘have a say’ and participate in all relevant organisational activities where possible, especially on issues that are important to them.
Staff and volunteers must not:
Develop any ‘special’ relationships with children that could be favouritism (for example, the offering of gifts or special treatment for specific children)
Exhibit behaviours with children which may be construed as unnecessarily physical
Put children at risk of abuse
Do things of a personal nature that a child can do for themselves, such as toileting or changing clothes
Engage in open discussions of a mature or adult nature in the presence of children
Use inappropriate language in the presence of children
Express personal views on cultures, race or sexuality in the presence of children
Discriminate against any child, including because of culture, race, ethnicity or disability
Have contact with a child or their family outside of our organisation without our child safety officer’s knowledge and/or consent (for example, no babysitting). Accidental contact, such as seeing people in the street, is appropriate)
Have any online contact with a child or their family (unless necessary, for example providing families with e-newsletters)
Ignore or disregard any suspected or disclosed child abuse.