This policy outlines our commitment to child protection. It includes our protocols when abuse is reported to us or suspected by us. It also includes information on measures taken at Collectively Kids to prevent child abuse. All staff are expected to be familiar with this policy and abide by it.
Teachers and Management recognise that it is the obligation and responsibility of the centre to provide a safe physical and emotional environment where children are treated with dignity and respect and are free from physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse. We are committed to the prevention of child abuse and neglect and to the protection of all children.
Teachers are familiar with the national protocol agreed by the Ministry of Education, Early Childhood Education Services and Child, Youth and Family Services which is enclosed with this policy in the operations manual and this will be revisited as regularly.
The interest and protection of the child is paramount in all actions.
We recognise the rights of family/whānau to participate in the decision making about their children.
We have a commitment to ensure that all staff are able to identify the signs and symptoms of potential abuse and neglect and are able to take appropriate action in response.
We are committed to supporting staff to work in accordance with this policy, to work with partner agencies and organisations to ensure child protection policies are consistent and high quality.
We will always comply with relevant legislative responsibilities.
We are committed to share information in a timely way and to discuss any concerns about an individual child with colleagues or the person in charge.
We are committed to promote a culture where staff feel confident that they can constructively challenge poor practice or raise issues of concern without fear of reprisal.
Prevention of Child Abuse
Management is committed to maintaining and increasing teacher awareness of how to prevent, recognise and respond to child abuse.
Teachers and management take part in training courses concerning abuse as these become available. Information regarding child protection is available and teachers are encouraged to read this, particularly when policy review takes place.
Most of the centre layout allows for visibility of children and adults. There are a number of viewing windows to aid supervision. Teachers are rostered to supervise the toilet area and attempt to be in the area when a parent/caregiver is changing or toileting his/her child while other children are present. Relievers (unless long-term), visitors, parents, students, ESW’s and voluntary staff do not toilet, help children (other than their own, or in the case of ESW’s, children they are working with) to dress or change nappies. 2-5 staff members are teaching on centre premises to ensure that ratio requirements at all times. On rare occasions only one registered teacher may be present if there is an emergency, or for a late pick-up if a second staff member is unable to stay on. At least 2 adults supervise on outings and at least one of these adults is a permanent teacher.
Students, ESWs, voluntary staff and relieving teachers (unless they long-term relievers) are asked to limit physical contact with children and to ensure that children feel comfortable before initiating contact. Permanent teachers, however, do develop affectionate relationships with the children and this is seen as an important aspect of building relationships and providing an emotionally safe and secure learning environment for young children.
The centre programme fosters self-help skills, assertion, self-esteem and respect for others through activities, procedures and resources. It offers a trusting environment where children have opportunities, and are encouraged to discuss anything that concerns them (however small or large it may seem to them) with teachers. Children are encouraged to say 'no' to unwanted physical contact (including hugs). They are encouraged to respect the physical and emotional space of others. Children are provided with the correct names for all body parts including genitals (penis, vagina or vulva). Children are encouraged to express feelings and teachers are always available for conversations. Any concerns arising from regular observations and incidental records are discussed.
No child will be taken from the centre without the parents' written consent. If there is a change in routine or an emergency, parents are required to ring to advise the centre. A note will be made on the roll or in the communications book of such calls.
Open communication and a close relationship between families and the centre is fostered. Information regarding abuse is available. Teachers are always prepared to discuss any concerns about children. A confidential record of conversations with parents which are of a sensitive nature may be kept. The centre has a complaints procedure. Parents are asked to immediately report any concerns regarding their child's treatment at the centre to Management and/or to a staff member.
Situations of suspected abuse
In situations of suspected abuse our predominant concern will always be to ensure the welfare and immediate safety of the child.
The flow chart of action after abuse is discovered or disclosed (in the interagency protocol) will be followed.
If there are concerns regarding the safety of infants and toddlers, teachers will keep written records of such concerns and notify the person in charge and management who will, in consultation with teachers, take action deemed appropriate for the circumstances.
If there are concerns regarding the safety of young children and/or children disclose information relating to their care that is of concern the person in charge and management will be informed and will, in consultation with teachers, take action deemed appropriate under the circumstances. Under such circumstances children will be listened to, believed and reassured. Confidential records will be kept of observations, and communications that cause concern. Teachers will avoid making judgements, facts only will be recorded. The child will not be questioned. Teachers will not act alone but will consult with other teachers and advice will be sought from appropriate agencies.
If there is clear evidence of reasonable cause to believe an instance of child abuse has taken place the person in charge shall notify Child, Youth and Family.
In addition to guiding staff to make referrals of suspected child abuse and neglect to the statutory agencies (i.e. Child, Youth and Family and the Police), this child protection policy will also help staff to identify and respond to the needs of the many vulnerable children whose wellbeing is of concern.
In many of these cases the involvement of statutory agencies would be inappropriate and potentially harmful to families/whānau. Throughout New Zealand statutory and non-statutory agencies provide a network of mutually supportive services and it is important that Collectively Kids works with these agencies to respond to the needs of vulnerable children and families/whānau in a manner proportionate to the level of need and risk.
Allegations or concerns about staff
Where suspected abuse has been perpetrated by a teacher or other person at the centre, teachers will report the matter to Management and/or appropriate authorities (a protected disclosure policy is in place). To ensure the safety of the child the flow chart procedure will be followed. Statutory organisation will be informed and advice sought. The staff member concerned will be advised and informed that they have the right to seek legal support. They will be provided with an opportunity to respond. If there is any possibility of harm to a child or children the person will be suspended while investigations take place. Support will be made available from; NZEI, a Human Rights Commission officer or any other suitable person. The Ministry of Education will be advised.
Confidentiality and information sharing
The Privacy Act 1993 and the Children, Young Persons and Family Act 1989 allow information to be shared to keep children safe when abuse or suspected abuse is reported or investigated. Note that under sections 15 and 16 of the CYPF Act, any person who believes that a child has been, or is likely to be, harmed physically, emotionally or sexually or ill-treated, abused, neglected or deprived may report the matter to Child Youth and Family or the Police and, provided the report is made in good faith, no civil, criminal or disciplinary proceedings may be brought against them.
Recruitment and employment
Safety checking will be carried in accordance with the Vulnerable Children Act 2014. This will include: a police vet; identity verification; reference checks and an interview. A work history will be sought and previous employers will be contacted. All of these checks as well as a risk assessment will have to be completed with satisfactory results before employment begins. If there is any suspicion that an applicant might pose a risk to a child, the applicant will not be employed.