Child Protection Policy

 

Purpose statement:

St John’s Girls’ School is committed to ensuring the wellbeing and safety of children, including the prevention of child abuse or maltreatment.  The safety and wellbeing of the child is our top priority when investigating suspected or alleged abuse.  This policy provides guidance to staff on how to identify and respond to concerns about the wellbeing of a child, including possible abuse or neglect.  All staff are expected to be familiar with this policy and to abide by it.  The principal has delegated authority to develop the procedures that support the policy.

Policy Principles:
  • The interests and protection of the child is paramount in all actions.
  • We recognise that all situations are different and that it is important to consider all information before reaching conclusions.
  • All staff, contractors and volunteers have a responsibility to discuss any child protections concerns, including suspected abuse or neglect, with the principal.  Under sections 15 & 16 of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989 and 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 action may be brought against them.
  • We support the roles of the New Zealand Police (the Police) and Child, Youth and Family in the investigation of suspected abuse and will report suspected/alleged abuse to these agencies.
  • We are committed to open, transparent relationships and recognise the rights of families/whanau to participate in decision making about their children.  We will share concerns about child safety issues with family/whanau unless this would result in an escalation of risk.
  • We are committed to supporting all 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 Principal.
  • 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.
Child Abuse

Child abuse includes physical, emotional and sexual abuse as well as neglect which is the direct consequence of a deliberate act or omission by an adult and which has the potential or effect of serious harm to the child.

Identifying child abuse and neglect:

  • Our approach to identifying abuse or neglect is guided by the following principles:
    We understand that every situation is different and it’s important to consider all available information about the child and their environment before reaching conclusions.  For example, behavioural concerns may be the result of life events, such as divorce, accidental injury, the arrival of a new sibling etc.
  • We understand when we are concerned a child is showing signs of potential abuse or neglect we should talk to someone, either a syndicate leader or the principal – we shouldn’t act alone.
    While there are different definitions of abuse, the important thing to consider is the overall wellbeing and the risk of harm to the child.  It is not so important to be able to categorise the type of abuse or neglect.
  • It is normal for us to feel uncertain, however, the important thing is that we should be able to recognise when something is wrong, especially if we notice a pattern forming or several signs that make us concerned.

We recognise the signs of potential abuse:

  • Physical signs (e.g. unexplained injuries, burns, fractures, unusual or excessive itching, genital injuries, sexually transmitted diseases).
  • Developmental delays (e.g. small for their age, cognitive delays, falling behind in school, poor speech and social skills).
  • Emotional abuse/neglect (e.g. sleep problems, low self-esteem, obsessive behaviour, inability to cope in social situations, sadness/loneliness and evidence of self-harm).
  • Behavioural concerns (e.g. age inappropriate sexual interest or play, fear of a certain person or place, eating disorders/substance abuse, disengagement/neediness, aggression).
  • The child talking about things that indicate abuse (sometimes called an allegation or disclosure).

We are aware of the signs of potential neglect:

  • Physical signs (e.g. looking rough and uncared for, dirty, without appropriate clothing, underweight).
  • Developmental delays (e.g. small for their age, cognitive delays, falling behind in school, poor speech and social skills).
  • Emotional abuse/neglect (e.g. sleep problems, low self-esteem, obsessive behaviour, inability to cope in social situations, sadness/loneliness and evidence of self-harm).
  • Behavioural concerns (e.g. disengagement/neediness, eating disorders/substance abuse, aggression)
  • Neglectful supervision (e.g. out and about unsupervised, left alone, no safe home to return to).
  • Medical neglect (e.g. skin disorders or other untreated medical issues).

This organisation will always act on the recommendations of statutory agencies, including Child, Youth and Family and the Police.  We will only inform families/whanau about suspected or actual abuse after we have discussed this with these agencies.

When we respond to suspected child abuse or any concerning behaviour we will write down our observations, impressions and communications.  This will be kept secure.

Staff involved in cases of suspected child abuse will be supported.

Additional Resources

Child, Youth and Family has developed the Working Together guide on inter-agency working to identify and respond to potential abuse and neglect.

The Ministry of Health has also made guidance available in the health sector:

  • Family Violence Guidelines
  • Child Abuse Assessment & Response
Responding to Suspected Abuse or Neglect

Responding to a child when a child discloses abuse:

  • Listen to the child – disclosures by children are often subtle and need to be handled with particular care, including an awareness of the child’s cultural identify and how that affects interpretation of their behaviour and language.
  • Reassure the child – let the child know that they are not in trouble and that they have done the right thing.
  • Ask open-ended prompts – e.g. what happened next?  Do not interview the child, i.e. do not ask questions beyond open prompts for the child to continue.  Do not make promises that can’t be kept, e.g. “I will keep you safe now.”
  • If the child is in immediate danger, contact the Police immediately.
  • If the child is visibly distressed, prove appropriate reassurance and re-engage in appropriate activities under supervision.  If the child is not in immediate danger, re-involve the child in ordinary activities and explain what you are going to do next.
  • As soon as possible formally record the disclosure.  Record – word for word – what the child said, the time, date and who was present.

Recording and Notifying Child, Youth and Family of Suspected Abuse or Neglect:

  • Formally Record:
  • Anything said by the child.
  • The date, time, location and the names of any staff that may be relevant.
  • The factual concerns or observations that have led to the suspicion of abuse or neglect (e.g. any physical, behavioural or developmental concerns).
  • The action taken by the school
  • Any other information that may be relevant.
  • Decision making:  Discuss any concern with the principal.  No decisions should be made in isolation.
  • Notifying authorities:  Notify Child, Youth and Family promptly if there is a belief that a child has been, or is likely to be abused or neglected.  A phone call to the National Contact Centre is the preferred initial contact with the Child, Youth and Family as this enables both parties to discuss the nature of the concerns and appropriate response options.
  • Follow the advice of Child, Youth and Family:  This advice will include what, if any, immediate action may be appropriate, including referring the concern to the Police.  Child, Youth and Family is responsible for looking into the situation to find out what may be happening, whether we need to work with the family or to put them in touch with people in the community who can help.
  • Securely storing relevant information:
  • The record of the concern.  Records assist in identifying patterns.
  • A record of any related discussions, (including copies of correspondence, where appropriate).
  • A record of any advice received.
  • The action taken, including any rationale.
  • This concern with any earlier concerns, if the notification is based on an accumulation of concerns (rather than a specific incident).
  • Child, Youth and Family will make the decision to inform the parents or caregivers in consultation with the school.
  • Responding to other concerns: Where a concern about a child doesn’t amount to suspicion of abuse or neglect, it could be harmful to the wellbeing of the child and their family/whanau to make a notification to thte statutory agencies.  Instead, we will work to partner with social service providers to identify and address the needs of the child, e.g. Strengthening Families.

Additional resources

The suggested resources for identifying abuse also provide guidance on responding appropriately.

It is important to understand the role of Child, Youth and Family in responding to concerns:

  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Differential Response – Information for Community Service Providers

When an allegation is made against a member of staff

If there is a need to pursue an allegation as an employer, we will consult with CYF or with the Police before advising the person concerned, informing them that they have the right to seek legal advice and providing them with an opportunity to respond. They will also be informed of their right to seek support from the relevant union.  Ordinary disciplinary policies guided by the employment contract/collective agreement and relevant statutory obligations will be followed.  We commit not to use ‘settlement agreements’ where these are contrary to a culture of child protection.

All matters involving allegations against staff need to be escalated to the management team.  To ensure the child is kept safe, management may take steps to remove the staff member against whom an allegation has been made from the environment, subject to the requirements of the applicable individual or collective employment contract and relevant employment law.  We commit not to use ‘settlement agreements’, where these are contrary to a culture of child protection.  Some settlement agreements allow a member of staff to agree to resign provided that no disciplinary action is taken, and a future reference is agreed.  Where the conduct at issue concerned the safety or wellbeing of a child, use of such agreements is contrary to a culture of child protection.

Confidentiality and information sharing

The Privacy Act 1993 and the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989, allow information to be shared to keep children safe when abuse or suspected abuse is reported or investigated.

Recruitment and Employment (Safety Checking)

Safety checking will be carried out in accordance with the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.  This will include a police vet, identity verification, references and an interview. A work history will be sought and previous employers will be contacted.  If there is any suspicion that an applicant might pose a risk to a child, ,the applicant will not be employed.

Training, supervision and Support

Training, resources and/or advice will be available to ensure all staff can carry out their roles in terms of this policy, particularly:

  • Understanding child abuse and indicators of child abuse.
  • How to reduce the risk of child abuse.
  • Understanding and complying with legal obligations in regard to child abuse.
  • Working with outside agencies on child abuse issues.
  • Planning of environment and supervision to minimise risk.
  • Dealing with child/parents/family/whanau.

This policy will be part of initial staff induction.

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