Emil Ford Lawyers

The Child Safe Standards

In its final Report, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse developed Child Safe Standards for adoption and implementation by institutions to make them safer for children. The Royal Commission noted that child safe institutions create cultures, adopt strategies and take action to prevent harm to children, including child sexual abuse.

In the Commission’s definition, a child safe institution:

  • consciously and systematically creates conditions that reduce the likelihood of harm to children,
  • creates conditions that increase the likelihood of identifying and reporting harm, and
  • responds appropriately to disclosures, allegations or suspicions of harm.

The Child Safe Standards articulate the essential standards of a child safe institution. The Standards guide what institutions need to do to be child safe by setting best practice to drive and guide performance. Further, the Child Safe Standards are a benchmark against which institutions can assess their child safe capacity and set performance targets. The Standards are:

The Commission identified the core components of each Child Safe Standard to help guide institutions to implement the Standards. We set out here the core components of Standards 1 and 2.

Standard 1: Leadership, governance and culture

Child safety is embedded in institutional leadership, governance and culture

The Standard’s core components

We consider the core components of leadership, governance and culture in a child safe institution to be the following:

(a)   The institution publicly commits to child safety and leaders champion a child safe culture.

The institution:

  • explains in publicly available information how the institution is meeting its commitment to child safety and welcomes feedback
  • addresses child safety in duty statements and performance agreements for all staff, including senior leaders and board members
  • raises staff awareness about obligations to protect the safety and wellbeing of children within a broader context of supporting children’s rights
  • establishes and maintains a workplace culture of respect for children, regardless of their individual characteristics, cultural backgrounds and abilities
  • lists child safety as a standing meeting agenda item

(b)   Child safety is a shared responsibility at all levels of the institution.

To embed this responsibility in the institution’s culture:

  • children’s cultural safety is addressed in the institution’s policies and procedures
  • information about child safety is accessible, regularly promoted, and staff, volunteers, children and families are encouraged to raise safety issues without fear of retribution
  • staff, volunteers, children and families report that they know that child safety is everyone’s responsibility and they feel empowered to have a say in and influence decisions about child safety.

Leaders of the institution:

  • inform themselves about all aspects of child safety
  • model and foster a commitment to child safe practices
  • set accountabilities for child safe principles at all levels of the institution’s governance structure
  • understand the problem of child sexual abuse
  • foster a culture that supports anyone to disclose safely their concerns about harm to children
  • appoint to the institution’s board a Child Safe Trustee or Children’s Champion who is willing and able to advocate on behalf of children, and a Child Protection Coordinator who reports to the executive about the institution’s child safe performance.

Staff are made aware of their responsibilities through:

  • duty statements that identify roles and responsibilities (including child safety) for all positions
  • an organisational chart that shows lines of authority, reporting and accountability for each position.

(c)    Risk management strategies focus on preventing, identifying and mitigating risks to children.

Risk management strategies support a structured approach to identifying and assessing the characteristics of an institution that may heighten the risk of child sexual abuse. They are an important tool to help keep children safe.

The institution’s risk management strategy:

  • is developed from a clear, evidence-informed concept of potential intentional and unintentional risks to children in an institution’s specific setting. For sexual abuse, it requires knowing the characteristics of abusers and victims, and how, when and where abuse tends to occur
  • has a prevention focus that addresses child safety
  • has appropriate controls to identify, assess and address risks
  • considers increased risk with specific roles and activities, and children with heightened vulnerability, but does not discourage positive relationships between adults and children, and healthy child development
  • attends more closely to risk in situations where staff have roles that involve working alone with children or without supervision; in private settings; in intimate care routines or situations with children (for example, bathing, dressing, or counselling and guidance); and in leading or supervising others in child safety roles.

(d)   Staff and volunteers comply with a code of conduct that sets clear behavioural standards towards children.

A code of conduct sets out clear behavioural standards, practices or rules that are expected of individuals in an institution. This includes standards of behaviour that are expected between adults and children.

The institution’s code of conduct:

  • applies to all staff and volunteers, including senior leaders and board members
  • clearly describes acceptable and unacceptable behaviour of employees and volunteers towards children (for example, by illustrating behaviours with relevant examples)
  • is communicated effectively to all staff
  • requires signed acknowledgement by all staff and volunteers
  • is published, accessible to everyone within the institution (including children and families) and communicated throughout the institution using a range of modes and mechanisms
  • if breached, requires a prompt response and includes clearly documented response mechanisms, on a continuum from remedial education and counselling through to suspension, termination and official reports.

(e)    Staff and volunteers understand their obligations on information sharing and recordkeeping.

Within the institution:

  • staff and volunteers are aware of and understand their obligations in relation to data collection, information sharing and recordkeeping
  • records are stored in accordance with best practice principles for access and use.

Emil Ford Lawyers can assist you by:

  • talking with your board about governance issues
  • drafting employment contracts that address child safety
  • preparing child protection and related policies
  • educating your leaders and employees about child safety and the law, and about risk management
  • preparing a code of conduct
  • guiding you about privacy, confidentiality and recordkeeping.

Standard 2: Children's participation and empowerment

The standard’s core components

We consider the core components of children’s participation and empowerment within an institution to be the following:

  • Children are able to express their views and are provided opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their lives.
  • The importance of friendships is recognised and support from peers is encouraged, helping children feel safe and be less isolated.
  • Children can access sexual abuse prevention programs and information.
  • Staff and volunteers are attuned to signs of harm and facilitate child-friendly ways for children to communicate and raise their concerns.

Implementing the core components

Children are able to express their views and are provided opportunities to participate in decisions that affect their lives

The institution:

  • asks children to participate and talk about the things that affect their lives, including their safety
  • embeds children’s participation into institutional practices, for example, by providing opportunities for children to participate in decisions that affect their lives
  • matches participation methods to the age, capabilities and cultural background of the children, and the type of institution
  • creates opportunities for children to be involved in institutional governance, while also being honest with children about the extent of their involvement and giving children feedback on how their views have been actioned by the institution
  • plans formal and informal times and activities for information sharing and discussion with children about broad institutional issues and/or decisions
  • provides opportunities for children to give feedback to the institution, including anonymous surveys and/or suggestion boxes.

The importance of friendships is recognised and support from peers is encouraged, helping children feel safe and be less isolated

The institution:

  • recognises the importance of children’s friendships and peer support in helping children feel safe and be less isolated
  • actively supports children to develop and sustain friendships (for example, a ‘buddy system’)
  • provides children with education about safe and respectful peer relationships, including through social media.

Children can access sexual abuse prevention programs and information

The institution:

  • provides children with access and referral to educational programs on child protection appropriate to their age, ability and level of understanding
  • openly displays contact details for independent child advocacy services and child helpline telephone numbers, and explains their use to children
  • arranges appropriate referrals or support for children.

Staff and volunteers are attuned to signs of harm and facilitate child-friendly ways for children to communicate and raise their concerns

The institution:

  • establishes mechanisms that enable children to raise any complaints safely
  • provides staff with resources and/or training opportunities to support children’s participation
  • requires staff to be vigilant to signs of harm and routinely check to see if children are okay
  • provides child-focused and inclusive complaint-handling processes
  • allows sufficient time, opportunity and appropriate support for children with disability to raise concerns
  • draws on a culturally diverse workforce to nurture and support children’s diverse needs and cultural safety
  • ensures sufficient time to build healthy relationships between staff, volunteers and children.

Please contact , , or .

Suite 4 Level 5
580 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: +61 2 9267 9800
Fax: +61 2 9283 2553