Part of creating a safe space means developing clear guidelines and codes of conduct for all staff, as well as participants. In addition there must be clear and accessible processes and procedures if these policies and codes are violated. Child protection policies not only help organisations articulate their approach to protecting participants to the outside community, but also provide all staff and participants with a definition of a safe space and the practical steps to take when there is a violation of that safe space.
Why Is a Child Protection Policy Important?
Even though sport programmes play a valuable role in the well-being of children, they can also be, if the proper policies and procedures are not in place nor practiced, a place where children are abused, excluded or taken advantage of.
Coaches are in a unique position to be role models and mentors for young participants, but there are also countless stories of coaches misusing their influence and power to take advantage of youth – harassing, manipulating, neglecting and abusing them. According to research from UNICEF’s 2009 Report Card on Child Protection, “Children are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and other forms of violence if they are subjected to discrimination, neglect and disadvantage related to their caste, ethnicity, gender or economic status, and girls are generally at greater risk.”1 Girls’ greater vulnerability to violence in many settings is in large part a result of the influence of gender-based power relations within society.
That is why child protection policies, particularly policies and processes in which the children themselves take part in the creation, are extremely important to ensure that a sport programme reaches its objectives of empowering youth and contributing to their well-being. If child protection is overlooked, then the sport programme as a vehicle for development is in danger of putting those very children in situations that could expose them to even more harm and negative experiences. In fact, to ensure an atmosphere of child protection, this issue must be at the centre of programme design, development and implementation.
Unsure Where To Start?
Below, we have outlined some important steps and processes (based on best practices from around the world in sport and youth development) that can help organisations create and formulate their own policies and procedures and, importantly, learn about ways to implement them so that children know their rights to protection and coaches and staff understand how to help children exercise those rights.
Steps to Take In Creating and Implementing a Child Protection Policy
Take the Girls Sport Safety Self Assessment to know where your organisation currently stands in regards to the various child protection elements.