One very important step in getting your organisation ready to implement its child protection policy, processes and procedures is to make contact and create partnerships with external organisations. Look for external organisations with expertise that fills the gaps in your organisation’s capacities. Look for child abuse organisations, child’s or women’s rights organisations, psychological counsellors or health organisations that could help you access important services when abuse is found within your organisation or involving participants in your programme. Finding social services or government agencies that deal with abuse and child protection could also be great partners in helping you with your policies and their implementation. Having contact with legal advisors or lawyers will help when investigating cases and in the unfortunate circumstance that legal action must be taken.
Hire a Child Protection Officer
One great way to prepare your organisation for implementing your child protection policy and process is to hire a Child Protection Officer, ideally someone with experience in this field. This could be someone who worked for a social services organisation previously or another community institution in which their role was to supervise the protection of children and the policies around abuse.
We do recognize that most organisations will not have the budget to hire a staff member specifically for this role. Another option is to appoint a current staff member or volunteer for this role and train that person to be well-versed in the policy and all the processes involved. Have that person attend other trainings, if possible, by external organisations such as child welfare, social services or government agencies that deal with children and abuse. It is important to have one point person who can coordinate activities surrounding child protection and who can be the person coordinates reporting and referral processes.
Notify and Educate Community About Child Protection Policies and Referral Systems
As an organisation, you will want to inform and educate the community, including parents of the children, about the policies and processes involved in protecting their children while in the sport programme. This can be done through community meetings or having the children do theatre skits that illustrate the organisation’s code of conduct and policies around conduct. This not only helps the parents feel more at ease in sending their children to the programme but also educates them about the process if they need to be involved later on.
Conduct Adult Trainings with All Coaches, Staff and Volunteers
Having a policy on paper is not enough. Training coaches, staff members and volunteers is extremely important when preparing to implement your policy. Hold a one- or two-day workshop for your staff. Make sure they are familiar with the entire policy and understand the procedures they need to take. Do role-plays, practicing what they would do if they are approached with an allegation of a violation of the policy. Also, make sure everyone is aware of how to make contact with partner organisations. It is critical that everyone understands the procedures so that allegations, whether true or not, are dealt with quickly and with sensitivity to the situation, the child, the coach and the organisation.
Conduct Child Training
Walking children and programme participants through the policy, reporting processes and procedures as well as the code of conduct is also necessary before implementation. When children understand what their rights are and they understand how to report if their rights are violated, they will be less afraid to take action if anything happens. Make sure that all policies and tools are adapted with child-friendly language and are easily accessible and available for children.
Putting in place policies around child protection and gender inclusion is a key part of the solution, but this is not enough. With the exception of a few sport for development programmes, such as UNICEF, children’s voices have been largely left out of the child protection discourse, and they have not been supported in taking an active role in their own protection. Children, and girls in particular, must be given a voice within such programmes and empowered to drive the agenda by determining the meaning of protection in their context and in their sport.
This can be done various ways. Have children act out through role-plays what they consider is, for example, a coach misusing his or her power. This may be different depending on the child. This is a great way to show children that there are different opinions on what manipulation or abuse means and that they have to right to their own definition and their opinion being respected.