Childsafe urges parents to start asking about safety policies at your child’s organisations

5 questions every parent must ask of their childcare, school or club about their child’s safety, says Melinda Peers

Statistics show that 1 in 5 children are sexually abused before the age of 18 in Australia. Whilst most abuse happens in homes a percentage does happen in the trust of organisations who work with children.

Whether we’ve paid much attention to it or not, we are all aware of the recent Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse and the guilty verdict of a Cardinal.

As a parent of young children, the mere mention of child abuse in any form makes me feel like crumbling into a crying mess on the ground.  How on earth could people be so cruel? But rather than turning away from it, it’s time we as parents get some ammunition to fight child abuse, to bring it to the forefront of everyone’s thinking, and to ensure that it is eradicated from our society.

Who’s with me?

The Royal Commission determined ten Child Safety Standards that all organisations should meet to ensure children are kept safe, and staff and volunteers are accountable at all times.  The Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) has just endorsed these standards and now as parents, it’s our turn to put pressure on organisations to get their policies and procedures up to date.

ChildSafe is a Children’s Harm Prevention Charity providing practical tools and training to help community organisations transition policy into easy-to-implement practice.  ChildSafe now helps to create safer environments for more than 200,000 Australian children in over 1,100 registered organisational sites.

ChildSafe has just released a free resource for parents which highlights 5 questions to ask your children’s school, daycare centre and extra-curricular organisations about their child safety policies.

The questions are:

  1. Are your staff/volunteers screened, background checked and child safe trained?
  2. Do you have a child safe policy and code of conduct?
  3. How do you go about involving children in your decision-making processes?
  4. How and where do you store my data?
  5. How does a child make a complaint and what is your process for responding?

I spoke with Neil Milton, ChildSafe General Manager about why they created the resource and also what parents can do at home to make sure our children are equipped to recognise actions that are wrong and harmful.

“It’s important that parents take responsibility and don’t just rely on the organisation to do so. This resource puts the power back into parent’s hands to have a peace of mind their child will be safe,” Neil says.

“As a parent, I know how much trust we put in the organisations that care for our children, whether it be daycare centres, sporting clubs or schools.  We tend to assume that organisations are doing what is required of them in terms of child safety, but this resource will give parents the power to keep organisations accountable,” Neil says.

“It’s important that parents teach their children what is appropriate physical contact by an adult. It doesn’t need to be a scary conversation.  When children are young, it’s telling them that certain parts of their bodies are private and not for touching. Children should feel empowered to say that it is their body and what they say goes.”

“Starting these conversations when they are young will help them understand that there are boundaries and that they can talk to mum or dad about anything that breaks these boundaries,” says Neil.

So, let’s start asking the hard questions! If we all do it, organisation’s will soon realise there is no getting away with laidback procedures.  Together we can make Australia more child safe.

Visit Childsafe to download the 5 Questions resource.

Words: Melinda Peers, Honey & Flint Communications